It’s time for a shout out to the resourcefulness of my amazing division of city planners. I would not have lasted one week if it wasn’t for their passion, commitment and professionalism. They work on the edge of the most pressing issues facing urban planners the world over – exceptional growth and the complexity of an evolving urban form, combined with social and environmental pressures that are paramount in every decision, every day.
The structures and processes that shape our daily practice – the OMB, the budget, an increasingly complex workload – are far from kind. We often have to do the best that we can with the resources we have. Some of this involves re-prioritizing our work program and re-aligning our staff resources (for example, to deal with our massive influx – over 100! – of employment land conversion requests) to simply stating a study request is in the queue, rather than underway. This isn’t a pretty sight if you are a resident waiting for a local area study, but it would be a less pretty sight if all of our employment lands were to disappear. But we do have to make these kinds of choices.
Despite these challenges, and maybe because of them, I believe the city needs us, as a division, to lead in new ways. For this reason we have realigned and reframed our Policy & Research unit as Strategic Initiatives, Policy & Analysis. The change reflects the inherent importance of strategic thought to great city building, and our desire to lead. It also points to the opportunity, through a vision-based approach to planning, of being able to embrace a planning approach that is less about site by site development and more about setting frameworks that can clarify expectations for Councillors, developers, and residents.
In addition, we are embarking on a Talent Management strategy in 2013. I want to ensure that that the right people are in the right roles. I want to ensure that we are utilizing and cultivating the talent we have to produce the best possible outcomes. The challenges we face demand no less.
I’m on the inside now, and I am seeing things in new ways. But one thing is steady and for certain: this city needs a strong planning division, and I am committed to building one.