Tacoma’s Strategic Direction for 2014

On February 21 Tacoma's City Council met in a special all-day work session to discuss its strategic direction for 2014; that strategic direction includes equity and empowerment initiatives, investment in the South Tacoma Way and Lincoln business districts, green roads, and working with both immigrant populations and the larger employers in town.

The meeting was a chance for the Council to look back at accomplishments and challenges from 2013, and to look ahead to what it would like to see in 2014, 2015, and beyond. The process resulted in the identification of a strategic direction for 2014 that includes five overarching strategic policy priorities and eight more specific strategic objectives. 

The Council's identified 2014 Strategic Policy Priorities, which are meant to inform Council decision-making on a higher level, look pretty familiar.

2014 Strategic Policy Priorities 

  • Strengthen and maintain a Strong Fiscal Management position. 
  • Strengthen and support Public Safety, Human Services, Public Education, and Diverse Higher Learning Opportunities in Tacoma. 
  • Foster Neighborhood, Community, and Economic Development Vitality and Sustainability. 
  • Plan for and improve Public Infrastructure that meets the Transportation needs of all Tacoma residents and visitors. 
  • Encourage and promote an Open, Effective, Results-oriented Organization. 

Perhaps more interesting, because they're more specific and give an idea as to what those policy priorities could look like in action, are the Council's identified Strategic Objectives for 2014.

Strategic Objectives 2014 

1. Implement a Community and Organization Equity and Empowerment InitiativeThis objective builds on work that has already been done by staff looking at equity in our communities. Next steps for this year will dig a little deeper into policies and implementation. The Council included two specific initiatives under this objective. The first would be externally facing, having the City "Engage the community in an external initiative to ensure equitable access to foundational community assets with and between neighborhoods and populations. The second would look at internal City operations, building "internal capacity for equity and empowerment, including racial equity, into City of Tacoma policies, programs, initiatives, workforce and budget decisions."

2. Focus on development of the South Tacoma and Lincoln District Mixed Use centers. This objective will seek to leverage what's going on in those two neighborhoods now, and work to bring some version of the recent investment in Pacific Avenue to them. The Council would ultimately like to see that energy and investment brought to all of Tacoma's neighborhood business districts, pushing density, supporting investment, and driving people to the businesses there. These two were identified for focus first due to what the Mayor called their "good bones" - assets including history, commuter rail, strong businesses, proximity to neighborhoods, etc. The Council will be looking for ways for the City to support and enhance these neighborhoods.

3. Cultivate strong relationships with primary employers in Tacoma and leverage their presence to attract potential investors. This objective puts working intentionally with Tacoma's larger employers, old and new, front and center as a top priority for the City.

4. Develop a comprehensive Greenroads program to improve water quality and neighborhood infrastructure. The purpose of this objective is to leverage the potential of green development to kill two birds with one stone - getting new neighborhood roads while improving local water quality. In response to public dissatisfaction with the condition of roads in Tacoma, the Council will look for ways to build more roads like the already built Clay Huntington Way and other Tacoma Greenroads projects. Use of this kind of low impact development technique opens up the possibility of funding from other sources than what is available for traditional road projects.

5. Make Tacoma a ''Welcoming City" and cultivate an immigrant-friendly environment. The Council made clear that this objective is not about immigration policy, but rather is about how the City work with foreign-born people who choose to call Tacoma home. Inspired by efforts in cities around the country, the Council will be looking for ways to work with immigrants and show that their contributions to the community are valued. Immigrants are disproportionately likely to be entrepreneurial as compared with the rest of the American population, and Tacoma has a significant population of immigrants. Initiatives that provide access to English as a second language, business assistance, and other education opportunities to help immigrants integrate into the way businesses are run in the US, in Washington, and in Tacoma would help put Tacoma on the path to become a "receiving city" for immigrants coming in, who can become productive, empowered, and contributing residents.

Items 6, 7, and 8 are continuing objectives that saw significant action in 2013, but which all have more work ahead in 2014.

6. Make Tacoma more physically attractive (2013-2014). 

7. Develop and implement a comprehensive transportation plan (2013-2014). 

8. Develop and implement a marketing/communication campaign (2013-2014). 

What do you think? Do these sound like objectives you can get behind?

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It is my belief that investing time and money improving the South Tacoma and Lincoln districts is a sound strategic decision to improve all of Tacoma.  Let’s face it, when people think of the unpleasant Tacoma, they think of South Tacoma.  This will be great for all.

March 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Regarding #2:  Although I am not a fan of one-way streets, sometimes I think they actually do make sense.  On South Tacoma Way and Washington Streets between S 60th and S 42nd, perhaps having those streets branch off into one way streets would serve well.  It would provide angle parking and really wide sidewalk room right on South Tacoma Way, angle parking outside of South Park on S Tacoma Way, wide enough sidewalks for bistro seating at restaurants, and new traffic on Washington that would encourage growth on that street as well as provide frontage to the Sounder Station at Washington and about 58th.  They could even make South Tacoma Way and Washington gently merge together again in front of the Sounder Station creating a park and/or a parking structure/gateway for the district.

#3:  Getting major area employers to recognize they should be in Tacoma’s downtown grid is great.  What about the Pierce County Consolidation effort?  A deal could be brokered between the county and Tacoma to get the consolidation offices across the street (a plan did exist for that at one point) from the current City-County building instead of the old Pierce County Hospital site.  Tacoma could trade jail services in the county jail for this.  Everyone would win here if there were smart enough folks putting this together.  I am sure a trade for the consolidation site would help Tacoma want to use the county jail on Tacoma Avenue again, no?  Building the consolidation site out of the downtown grid does nothing for housing development in Tacoma.

#6:  Trees.  Digging up and planting in current planter strips and asphalt spots where cars don’t drive (on street, center lanes, islands currently asphalt) would be good.  More trees.

May I also suggest a lighting plan for Tacoma.  There are about 30 different types of street lights in downtown alone.  If that’s not enough, some are the same but they went and painted them different colors.  This makes Tacoma look like it has no real direction.


March 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I couldn’t agree more with your comment about Tacoma needing a lighting plan. It seems like every time the City takes on a new improvement project, a new lighting type arrives with it. This ad hoc form of infrastructure design leads to a lack of cohesiveness across the city. Not to mention, it must be a maintenance/repair/replacement nightmare. It’d be nice if Planning and Public Utilities would sit down together and come up with a lighting plan for the city that creates standards based on considerations such as: arterial/street, district, bridge, and waterfront designations.

March 14, 2014 at 1:21 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Beautify Tacoma anyway possible. Metro Parks has a great volunteer program but there needs to be more public and city promotion of a “Beautify Tacoma” program. The area has so much natural beauty it would not take a lot to improve the aesthetics. Make it a place people want to come to recreate and do business. With the museums downtown and the U.S. Open in a little more than a year, these both will attract many thousands of people, if we could only get it looking better to maximize these opportunities. I think Tacomans are pround of their city and would turn out for more volunteering, but these sort of programs need to promoted by the City.

March 13, 2014 at 9:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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What a diaper load.

May 20, 2014 at 3:36 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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