Too Many Planners Spoil The Plan

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For a small town, we sure have a lot of strategic plans. Besides the town of Payson's corporate strategic plan, the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation has a plan, as do the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street program.

Into that mix comes the "Payson Focused Future II Community and Economic Development Strategic Plan," a tome that ought to sink from the weight of its title alone. It is sponsored by Arizona Public Service, and uses APS consultants who worked with a "broad-based citizen action team" to develop a strategic plan for the town and the region's economic development. Which, from what we can tell, is kind of what the PREDC and chamber plans do, and what the Main Street plan does with a more limited focus. And the town's corporate strategic plan is never short on economic development initiatives.

Maybe you can never have too many plans, especially on a subject as important as economic development. And it's true that those who worked on the APS plan put a lot of time and effort into developing a document that is both insightful and practical, a difficult mix to achieve when the subject is economic development.

But when the plan was presented to the council Thursday, several councilors took exception to a sentence, which read: "Following plan's adoption, the PREDC, town of Payson, Main Street, and Chamber of Commerce will develop and/or modify their organization's strategic plan (sic) to align with the Focused Future Strategic Plan's goals and strategies."

The protesting councilors, led by Robert Henley, felt the town's plan, not Focused Future II, should be the dominant plan that the others needed to be aligned with. We agree.

While the Focused Future II plan does touch on water and forest issues, it does so only in the context of economic development. The town's corporate strategic plan, on the other hand, is much broader based and incorporates a host of quality-of-life-related issues that must receive equal consideration along with economic development.

Recent town plans, for example, have ranked such issues as water resource management and development, street improvements, a community recreation center, and affordable housing above economic development in importance.

The explanation offered to the council by APS consultant Peggy Fiandaca -- that the offending sentence was poorly worded and the intent was always to put the town plan first -- just doesn't fly.

We're not saying the folks who put Focused Future II together were trying to pull a fast one, but we do think that sometimes people who have the most to gain by economic development develop tunnel vision and fail to see the bigger picture.

We also think that maybe the benefits of strategic planning can get lost in the confusion of too many strategic plans.

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