The City’s new Strategic Plan is a 20-page document meant to act as a guiding force in creating a city where future generations “want to live, work, and participate.” By its very nature, it is more flowery prose than actionable plan.
The over-riding sentiment is this: as St. John’s grows in population, so too do the demands of its people. The Strategic Plan is propped up on six strategic pillars, meant to identify the priorities that will help council achieve their vision of the city in the coming years.
Neighbourhoods Build our City:
The document notes that “St. John’s is becoming a more livable city with a range of amenities, programs, and services that support a healthy quality of life.” It’s true. But in order to become a proper, liveable, vibrant city, it needs to focus on creating self-sufficient neighbourhoods, with their own personalities. A place like Montreal or Vancouver is not the homogenous mass of nothing-but-homes St. John’s is, but rather a collection of thriving neighbourhoods with their own restaurants, shops, pubs, and parks … linked by convenient public transit. Will we ever get there, as an old non-grid city, with a lot of demographics exhibiting a “not in my neighbourhood!” attitude?
The city cites the following, among other steps it will take in this regard: Improve neighbourhood-level services; Increase access to range and type of housing; Develop parks and places for people; Create neighbourhood-focused plans.
A Culture of Cooperation:
The document states, “As the provincial capital, St. John’s benefits from being part of a national and increasingly international network of cities. St. John’s takes on additional ownership and responsibility to represent not only itself but also other municipalities in the province on matters of provincial and national importance.” Therefore, the Plan acknowledges the need to improve, among other things, multi-level government relations and create effective city-community collaborations.
A City for All Seasons:
Essentially, as a city with a harsh climate, we can either whine about the long winters and the foggy summers, or we can embrace these aspects of place, with things like The Loop at Bannerman Park. “There are opportunities to make St. John’s a year-round, livable, and active city,” the document reads. “Like many other Canadian and northern cities, we need to develop innovative approaches to the problems of the seasons while creating opportunities and bolstering the City’s ability to attract and retain residents and businesses.”
According to the document, “ Council recognizes the changing expectations of citizens” and how “there are increasing calls to invest in lifestyle amenities that enhance the livability of St. John’s.” While the document cautions that such investments must be made with money they mightn’t have, they propose several ways to meet these demands, despite their financial needs. These include things like public/private partnerships; Exploring cost-sharing programs; Advancing a new city-NL government fiscal framework, and exploring sponsorship strategies.
Responsive and Progressive:
In a nutshell, the document acknowledges the importance of two-way dialogue between people and council in creating a progressive and responsive city. And that a progressive city is a responsive one, capable of developing solutions, plans, and programs to build a better city. The City says its refocused city administrative structure is “designed to provide the foundation for a more responsive and innovative St. John’s.”
The document reads, “ we will support a positive, productive, knowledgeable and engaged workforce that understands the importance of what is means to be citizen-focused.”