"There are projects all over the
place by different groups but where do they come together? Right
now there is no city plan -- nothing tells us where we want to
go and how to get there," he told Delaforum.
To that end, he signed an executive order early in August
establishing a 30-member Planning and Development Advisory
Council and charged it to come up with a set of guidelines and
proposed steps to guide future growth.
"Past planning efforts in Wilmington have, at times, been
disjointed , too narrowly focused or disconnected from issues
||such as the
city's funding capability or ability to attract adequate
financial resources, which is why those efforts never
achieved the goal of setting a total plan to guide
Wilmington's future," he said in a media announcement
about the new council.
Establishing the panel is a significant step toward
implementing Bakerís key promise during the campaigns
leading up to the primary and municipal elections in 2000
and the lead item on his personal agenda long before that.
In an interview, he vowed that the
council will be more than just another group producing another
report issued in the glare of publicity hype and soon afterward
filed and forgotten.
"Planning is just
an instrument. We have plenty of plans about what to do
with this part of the city and that part. What we need is
a master plan that pulls all that together, sets
priorities and puts out the steps that have to be taken to
get it done," he said.
city still has a legion or two of naysayers, the success
in recent years of several
Photo from the city's
years of several development efforts has
muted, if not silenced, many of them. Christiana Riverfront
development following on the heels of extensive building in and
extension of the downtown business district are the most
Baker said that has
to be extended to the neighborhoods -- a gospel he has
preached during the more than a quarter of century since he
came from his native Ohio as a community worker in one of the
'Great Society' programs during the Lyndon Johnson
Administration. He stayed to become one of the rare breed
Delawareans who practice the political art full time.
Unashamedly he acknowledges himself as one who has something
akin to a love affair with the city and adamantly insists that
is neither naive nor idealistic. Already, he said, the city is
a better place than when he first saw it and, as its chief
executive, he intends to go down in its history as the man
responsible for making storied past glories the realities of
Top priority, he said in
the interview, is to establish Wilmington as "a safe city."
Policing is only part of that effort, he explained. That has
to be accompanied by improving the housing stock, including
getting rid of derelict buildings. He said he is personally
committed to reducing the number of so-called convenience
stores and liquor stores. "You don't need them in every block
in every neighborhood, particularly neighborhood where the
people are poor," he said.
developments as conversion of the Nemours Building into
apartments and the renovation of the Ships Tavern District at
the lower end of Market Street are part of an effort to bring
people into the city and give its population greater economic
"The city for the past 40
years have been primarily a place for poor people. We can't
continue to be that. We have to have a better mix of people
not only who work in the city but who also live in the city,"
also a need for people who visit. "Wilmington is a beautiful
city. We have a lot to offer tourists in the arts and historic
resources. We have to market that," he said, adding that
should be part of a statewide effort. "Delaware ranks 50th
[among the states] in what we spend on tourism. Alabama and
Mississippi spend more to attract tourists than we do," he