Be Realistic About Future

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie’s comment this week that the city needs to “reinvent” itself really was not news. It has been obvious for many years that any attempt to revive the downtown business district as a retail center is doomed to failure.

But there was an important, promising development regarding community leaders’ attempts to find a new path to progress. It came during a meeting about the new comprehensive plan.

State law requires cities to revise their comprehensive plans occasionally. Wheeling’s has not been amended since 1997. Clearly, a new blueprint for the future is needed.

Members of a special steering committee working with a consultant on the plan met Thursday to discuss progress in the work.

A few complaints and suggestions were made to the consultant, Compass Point Planning of Blue Ash, Ohio. One involved the document’s readability.

But two other complaints have far-reaching, important ramifications.

One involved absence of data to support conclusions reached in the plan. Too often, pie-in-the-sky ideas are suggested – yes, in Wheeling as well as elsewhere – without research indicating they have reasonable prospects for success. Putting time and money, not to mention local residents’ hopes, into such campaigns wastes valuable resources.

Wheeling’s new comprehensive plan needs to be based on realistic ideas backed by research, not just suggestions that sound good on paper.

A second complaint by some steering committee members was that the plan does not set timetables for individual goals. “We’ve seen so many plans come out of the city that just went nowhere,” explained panel member Terence Burke.

Precisely. Merely drawing up a blueprint for progress without explaining how it will be implemented will be of little use.

McKenzie is right. Wheeling needs to reinvent itself. Steering committee members are correct to insist on a plan that has some chance of accomplishing that.