For those not familiar with what has been tentatively titled Lewisville’s Vision 2025 Plan, the upcoming process is similar to the long-term plans used by the city since at least 1970, and the goals set down in this newest iteration will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the city's incorporation. In short, the finished project aims to accomplish a number of tasks; most notably, it will recommend a general direction for the city, point out issues that the city should address, and suggest projects to develop in the long-term future.
There are always potential pitfalls with projects like these. I often joke that while a “plan” is something you would like to do, a “strategic plan” is something that you would like someone else to do. When done incorrectly, some comprehensive plans can quickly turn into menageries of useless corporate jargon, and even when done correctly, city leaders can still ignore the results. In either case, the time, money, and effort spent creating such a plan is clearly wasted. As I wrote in a column last November, it is also essential that these plans not over- or underestimating future growth.
When crafted and executed correctly, however, these plans offer a number of advantages. Most importantly, they include input from a diverse group of citizens–or, to use the jargon phrase, “stakeholders”–many of whom may not have been involved in the city’s activities before but still bring up valid ideas and solutions.
In an article published in the Lewisville Leader last month, Councilman John Gorena had very little positive to say about Lewisville or its leadership. Much of it regards his opposition to the use of sales tax revenue to hire new fire, police, and code enforcement personnel, his predilection towards a “pay-as-you-go” budgeting process, and his opposition to the use of a consultant for the city’s upcoming long-term planning process.
It is that last objection that puzzles me the most. Among other things, the hired consulting firm will gather and analyze statistical and historical information about Lewisville. It will also organize one or more citizens’ committees to acquire input from various parts of the community. For a more comprehensive list of tasks they’ll be assigned, see the city’s call for proposals here.
You can watch the consultant’s presentation above and click through the slides as they come up.
Perhaps most importantly, a third party perspective keeps us from locking ourselves in the “closed loop” process that often prevents cities from recognizing faults.
Considering Councilman Gorena has so often expressed frustration with the city’s direction, the 2025 Plan should be an excellent chance to have an objective group validate his concerns and bring them to a larger audience. When asked by the consultant at the council retreat yesterday afternoon what he felt was the most important element of the project, Councilman Gorena said he wanted to find out why so many people were “leaving the city”. Then again, it’s worth noting that despite any anecdotal evidence Councilman Gorena has managed to acquire, the population of Lewisville continues to increase rapidly.
This upcoming process represents an exciting opportunity to bring more voices into a city hall that has traditionally not had enough of them. There’s no doubt that if supported by citizens and city leadership, it can help set Lewisville in a long-term direction, something it very much needs. If any one element of the process fails to live up to its end of the bargain, however, we risk not just wasting our time but also our money. Let’s not let that happen.