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Our Views: Is city of Janesville wise spending time, energy defining its vision, mission?

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April 3, 2014

Sure, it makes sense for a municipality to have a strategic plan. Without one, leaders might make decisions that stray from the end goal.

Generally speaking, that goal should be about becoming the best possible place to live, work, play and raise families.

Janesville’s new city manager, Mark Freitag, fresh off a lifelong military career, wants the city to enact a strategic plan. He’s also directing the troops at City Hall to create vision and mission statements. Maybe these also make sense. Their long-term value, however, is questionable. It seems a community’s vision or mission should be inherently understood. By their nature, these statements are general and generic and lack specifics that might make them useful.

Similarly, many businesses craft value statements that initially generate interest and enthusiasm but ultimately collect dust as employees go back to the grind of daily duties.

At least credit Freitag for realizing his staff should be smart enough to do this without hiring yet another outside consultant. Still, Freitag has scheduled three evening meetings to give residents chances to offer feedback on drafts of the vision and mission statements. We hope people show up to comment.

In Tuesday’s Gazette, Freitag suggested a vision statement should inspire people to dream. The city’s draft statement: “Wisconsin’s Park Place: the community of choice for realizing life’s opportunities.”

Reasonable enough.

In contrast, Freitag says a mission statement should inspire people to action. Janesville’s draft: “To innovatively provide effective municipal services that are responsive to the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors and delivered in a reliable, efficient manner in order to sustain Janesville as the community of choice.”

Are you inspired yet? Maybe Freitag and the folks at City Hall do need feedback. Dialing back the stuffy bureaucratic language might be a good start.

To be fair, the vision and mission statements from Beloit, Eau Claire and Waukesha, which The Gazette printed Tuesday, aren’t overwhelming, either. Waukesha’s vision is to be rated the No. 1 “best small city in America by 2018.” No word on by who’s measure. We’ve been to Waukesha. Nothing against it, but good luck with that goal. What was Freitag saying about dreaming?

At least Freitag is giving residents ample opportunity to comment on the proposed statements. No concerns about transparent government in this project. However, it might be draining time, energy and focus from the same staffers charged with developing a riverfront redevelopment action plan. The latter might be more worthy of the attention.



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