Clearwater Council Revisits Strategic Vision for the City
by Bill Lopez
CLEARWATER - Three years ago everything was looking rosy when municipal leaders took time to formulate a long-range vision and strategic plan for the city.
"Sparkling Clearwater is a uniquely beautiful, economically vibrant community that re-invests in itself and is a wonderful place to live, learn, work and play," they said about their vision for the city in 2006.
They embraced a philosophical mission to direct programs and initiatives: "To provide a safe, healthy, and vibrant community to the citizens of Clearwater and a stimulating and nurturing environment for Clearwater’s business community and tourists."
During an open council workshop with city staff Tuesday, the city council examined these guiding statements and the strategic initiatives they drive. These were informally reviewed against a changing environment brought on by economic contraction in city, county and state government.
Assistant City Manager Jill Silverboard said, "We’re directing resources to areas we never dealt with before because of foreclosures. That means resources get redirected. It is important to know if you place emphasis on housing stock… Population numbers are shifting. We need guidance."
The current year general fund budget for Clearwater was reduced from $123 million to $121 million this fiscal year beginning in October and the total workforce in the city has been trimmed by approximately 100 employees.
Council members pondered how the city administration should reform its mission especially when forecasts seem to indicate a continuing contraction in housing values and business activity.
For over two hours, they discussed topics from downtown revitalization, administrative services, funding for the homeless, traffic and parking, millage rates and many other issues. What emerged was something less than a clear vision although the council was unified in a desire to keep its strategic goals viable in spite of declining city revenues.
None of the 13 priorities identified in 2006 should be abandoned but the city's approach to these priorities may have to be altered. These include:
Councilmember Paul Gibson asked: "What can we afford? One person said he did not want police and fire reduced to keep a library open. Those are the types of choices we have to make."
Councilmember Carlen Petersen indicated another option, "we can raise the millage" she said…the vision statement still applies, but we have different parameters."
The prospect of a millage rate increase is very real. It was set at 5.7 in 2004 and has been reduced over the last few years to the current rate of 4.7.
The visioning workshop was the first of several efforts to regroup in Clearwater. The council and staff are awaiting a new financial forecast for calendar 2009 and beyond. With that in hand, they will revisit administration goals and the strategic vision for the city after the first of the year.
Contact Bill Lopez at email@example.com.
Return to Current Edition