For Courtney Knox Busch, the mark of a good strategic plan is that Salem residents can see their input and feel they have an impact on city operations.

The city of Salem strategic initiatives manager was tasked with funneling hundreds of pieces of input on what the community and Salem City Council would like to prioritize in the next one to five years and actions to accomplish those goals into a single document.

The plan has five main priorities: addressing homelessness, creating community resilience, increasing equitable delivery of city services, building great neighborhoods, and taking action on climate change.

“This is really about: ‘What do we want to tackle as community? What are the important things that we want to see change in?’” Knox Busch said.

Now, that vision will be translated into dollars as Salem’s budget committee begins meeting each Wednesday until May 5. In June, the proposed budget will go to Salem City Council for approval.

Knox Busch told the Salem City Council the plan’s first-year priorities will become a policy agenda to guide the development of the city’s budget.  The council adopted the plan March 8.

Some of the plan’s “key activities” for addressing homelessness include developing small transitional housing options like tiny home villages or supervised tent camps, deciding whether to implement a mobile crisis response unit to respond to low-level 911 calls, identifying funding for a navigation center and creating additional permanent supportive housing.

Many of the objectives listed are seeing traction. A new managed camp on Portland Road will open next week. Last week, the Oregon House and Senate passed a bill which included $5 million for a navigation center in Salem, a low-barrier shelter open around-the-clock to help people find aid for housing and health, among other concerns.

There are several large plans currently being crafted including the Our Salem project, a long-range document which outlines planning in the city and the Climate Action Plan, which Knox Busch said helped inform the strategic plan through community input.

She said staff took what they were hearing during those sessions to the council to help guide the city’s top priorities during the several month process of creating the plan.

To increase community resilience, the plan calls for finalizing an economic development strategy and supporting local businesses through Covid relief funds.

The city released an annual survey of resident satisfaction in October which found half of respondents considered homelessness the biggest issue facing Salem. That finding also informed the plan.

In January, councilors added addressing anti-racism in value statements; priority for bicycle, pedestrian and sidewalk projects; and supporting small businesses in Covid recovery to the plan.

To increase equitable delivery of city services, the plan calls for updating the city’s website to improve user experience and evaluate which services can be accessed virtually.

How to participate in the budget committee meeting:

People can provide written testimony to the committee by emailing [email protected]. The meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and be streamed live on YouTube.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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