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Cameron Stolz: New goals for the City of Prince George

The City of Prince George is like a giant cruise ship: it cannot come to a sudden stop or turn on a dime. 
Prince George City Hall
City Hall in Prince George.

The New Year represents an opportunity for a fresh start.  We look at the year ahead and set new goals for what we want to achieve.  It is a time of hope and anticipation. 

This is especially true for our newly elected mayor and city council.  With the excitement of having been elected or re-elected receding and the Christmas holidays behind them, the nine members of council will now gather for their strategic planning session. 

This is the moment when they will lay out, at a high level, the goals that they hope to achieve this term.  Those goals could be housing the unhoused and ensuring that mental health and addiction recovery facilities are provided to our community.  It could prioritize financial sustainability and economic growth by expanding the city’s tax base.  Perhaps a focus on green space and livability.

Once completed, council’s strategic plan will become the new touchstone for city staff.  This document will help provide the overarching direction on where city staff should be focusing their efforts for the next four years.   

In the Lower Mainland, for cities such as Surrey or Vancouver, this is a rather simple process.  Their voters elect candidates who belong to municipal political parties or slates; candidates met prior to the campaign even started and agreed upon what their priorities are. 

The citizens of Prince George elect nine unaligned individuals, all of whom have their own agenda and priorities.  As individuals, they made promises during their campaign and have their own goals they hope to achieve. 

In addition to our mayor and council, there is also the city manager who plays a significant role in this process.  He will lay out the work that is already underway at city hall, referring to items such as the Official Community Plan review, the Civic Core Plan consultation and the strategic plan from the last Council.

This is when an old saying will become reality for the newly elected.  The City of Prince George is like a giant cruise ship: it cannot come to a sudden stop or turn on a dime. 

With the new council consisting of the five incumbents who helped set the existing strategic plan, it will be insightful to see how much the current course changes.

The process of going through a strategic planning session has an added benefit.  Its structured format will give council the opportunity to get to know and, hopefully, connect with one another.  After the election, there were three very clear groups.  The incumbents, the two newly elected who had served on the school board together, and the two without any elected political experience.

It will be interesting to see how these different perspectives come together to communicate a common vision.  Will every voice around the table be heard equally?  Will each member of council be able to point to where what matters to them is embodied in the final document?

When the new strategic plan is presented to the public, the citizens of Prince George will have a first look at how our mayor and council are prioritizing the challenges and opportunities we are facing.  It is a time of hope and anticipation.

Cameron Stolz is a Prince George writer.