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Council embarks on strategic planning process

Nanaimo's new corporate strategic planning process is counting on citizens to provide diverse perspectives and ideas to shape the city's future.

Led by the Strategic Planning Steering Committee that includes Couns. Jim Kipp, Diana Johnstone and Ted Greves, and partnered with Rethink West, a Ladysmith firm that specializes in communication strategies, the process will include a number of workshops to pin down the direction residents think council should take Nanaimo.

"We've never done a strategic plan and the point of this is to get us to focus on where we're headed," said Kipp, chairman of the committee. "We try to extrapolate from the community what it wants by going out and meeting with residents and stakeholders and hopefully come out of it with four or five strategic directions that we can move in."

Council approved hiring Rethink West in January at a cost of about $100,000, plus an additional $21,400 for facility rentals to host workshops.

"Suggestions might be water as an important issue – it's important to me," said Kipp. "Others may feel shelter is important. The idea is to create a shared community vision and follow that vision."

The strategy will employ both long-term visions and short-term priorities.

"The process has been designed to listen carefully to the citizens of Nanaimo," said Mayor John Ruttan. "We want to hear about their aspirations and what they think our priorities should be for moving Nanaimo forward, especially during this council's term."

The title of the initiative is 'Your Voice, Our Nanaimo'.

Attempts from more specialized interests, including the chamber of commerce's Sustainable Cities initiative as well as Vision Nanaimo's recent Nanaimo Community Vision Rally, suggest a growing desire from the public to move Nanaimo in a unified and progressive direction, Kipp said.

"There are lots of good ideas out there, lots of strong initiatives," he said. "We want to try to have everybody moving in the same direction."

By establishing a common focus, Kipp added, council can set budget priorities reflecting community desires.

The process will include six steps and the resulting plan is expected to go before council in early July.

In March, workshops in three neighbourhoods to engage citizens include: a central Nanaimo workshop at Vancouver Island Conference Centre March 13 from 7-9 p.m. in the Dodd Narrows Room; a South Nanaimo workshop March 14 at Moose Hall from 7-9 p.m.; and a north Nanaimo workshop March 15 at Oliver Woods Community Centre from 7-9 p.m.

Community groups will be included in the discussion March 27 at Oliver Woods Community Centre from 7-9 p.m. Groups are encouraged to register using the e-mail 'yourvoiceournanaimo@nanaimo.ca with 'community groups' in the subject line.

A business symposium is scheduled at the Dorchester Hotel on March 28 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.; teens and students will have an opportunity for input at Wellington Secondary School March 29 from 4-6:30 p.m.; seniors can take part March 31 from 10 a.m. to noon at Oliver Woods Community Centre and a final wrap-up community forum is scheduled at the Coast Bastion Inn June 6 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

For more information on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, Your Voice Our Nanaimo, or workshop requirements, please visit www.nanaimo.ca.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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