Saturday, April 18, 2009

Strategic Planning

Spring is a good time for planning. It fits with the life cycle: First you plant the seeds, then they grow, then you harvest the crops, then you survive the winter.

As city dwellers, we don't have the annual agricultural cycle to guide our strategic planning. We count on specialists to produce most of our food, and this frees us to work, to socialize, and to create. We take for granted the freedom we get from the people who grow our food.

Economists applaud this specialization of labor because it raises production, but this type of consumption relieves us from thinking of the environment at all, never mind its limits.

We get paid, we go shopping, we grumble at the prices, but we stuff our fridges and our faces with exotic fruits and processed foods from all corners of the world. Instead of planting our crops, in the spring we file our taxes. For the most part we get a pretty good return on our money.

Taxes help pay for services that most people wouldn't consider attempting alone. Things like defending our borders, providing medical care for sick people, teaching many thousands of snotty nosed kids, and building roads to places you might want to drive to.

Paying taxes, however, isn't exactly a raison d'ĂȘtre. 

Living in cities provides the cross pollination of ideas that spices up culture. Rome had more than a million people at it's peak in the 3rd century. It was the world's undisputed cultural center. Nowadays we take cities with a million people for granted and complain that there's nothing to do. 

Strategic planning provides the framework within which the people who live in the city can find meaning. A clear strategic direction which works within the limits to growth and provides engagement and meaning for its citizens is extremely valuable.

This kind of vision for the future can galvanize communities and encourage them to pull together to achieve something better than they could achieve alone. It's a pretty good bang for the buck as far as taxes are concerned. What's your vision?

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