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City pauses Strategic Plan update

Charlottesville is pausing the process to update its strategic plan.

During its meeting Monday, the City Council tasked a committee with determining the process and scope of the update.

The decision came after an hour of discussion at the end of the meeting filled with disagreements, misunderstandings and awkward silences.

The plan is a high-level document outlining the council’s vision and goals over a three-year period. It is mostly abstract, with the 2018-2020 document including goals of an inclusive, self-sufficient community; healthy and safe city; beautiful environment; strong, diversified economy and a responsive organization.

The council kicked off the update process in late September, but planned work sessions have been continuously pushed back and finally canceled this week. Even at the initial meeting, councilors weren’t clear on whether they were revising the existing plan or creating a new one.

Councilor Sena Magill said officials’ capacity to take on the update while also juggling the fiscal 2022 budget, Climate Action Plan, Affordable Housing Plan, Comprehensive Plan update, hiring a city manager and revising the Police Civilian Review Board was too much at once.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker proposed a committee of staff members from various departments, five community members and two councilors to determine the next steps in the plan update. She said the committee could make a presentation by March and, once the budget process is completed in April, work could resume on the plan.

“This is really just the group to figure out what the process would look like so everybody would feel comfortable moving forward,” she said.

Interim City Manager John Blair said the plan should be updated in time for the next city manager to use it in crafting the budget for fiscal 2023, which starts July 1, 2022.

Councilors Heather Hill and Lloyd Snook felt the group should be smaller because it’s not actually updating the plan, just determining the process by which it will be updated.

“I don’t think it should take more than about five people to figure out what the process should be,” Snook said. “I still have a really difficult time that we’re going to ask 11 people or 14 people to get together to discuss something that’s just process oriented.”

Hill said with all the other work on the horizon over the next six months, the Strategic Plan may need to take a back seat. Walker countered that the plan is essential to guiding the function of the city.

“If the guiding document for the overarching mission goals and values of the city is not a top priority, I don’t understand what is,” Walker said.

The council then had several tense and silent moments in determining who would represent the panel on the committee. Snook and Walker went back-and-forth over the email chain proposing the committee before Walker said it’s “what you all are deciding” in determining council representation.

After a few tense minutes, the council decided Snook and Walker would be part of the committee and Blair would determine staff representatives. The council hopes the committee can meet in the next month or two.

The council was supposed to meet Tuesday to discuss the plan, but the meeting has been canceled.

Sister city

In other business, the council supported selecting Huehuetenango, Guatemala, as a new sister city.

Sister cities are established as agreements between localities in different countries to promote cultural and economic ties.

Charlottesville has four “sisters:” Besancon, France; Pleven, Bulgaria; Poggio a Caiano, Italy; and Winneba, Ghana.

The Sister Cities Commission has been finalizing a Spanish-speaking sister city for more than a year.

In approving the city, the commission will be able to provide grants in 2021 to support efforts improving ties between Charlottesville and Huehuetenango.


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