Glass half-full

Did you ever have one of those days? You know, where despite your best efforts, things go sideways? And where the things that went wrong threatened to overshadow the things that went right?

I had one yesterday. I have to admit I came home discouraged after a looooong meeting with about 40 items on the agenda. But looking back, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, some very good things happened.

So, this morning my glass isn’t half-empty. We gained some significant ground yesterday and some things turned out pretty well.

Here’s a rundown of what went well:

1. A number of folks came to say thanks during public comment, including a resident who lives off of Italian Bar Rd. County Public Works staff went out and listened to residents’ concerns and then found a way to make things better with very limited resources. Kudos and thanks to Barry, Pete, Ray, and all the other dedicated Roads Dept. folks.

2. The BOS named the much-improved bridge on J-59 in the memory of Bob Mittrey, the well-regarded contractor responsible for a number of projects in the county. From now on, I’ll think about him every time I cross that bridge.

3. November was declared Home Care and Hospice Month in honor of the dedicated men and women who provide healing and compassion in desperate times. How many could do what they do? Not many, I suspect.

4. A contract was approved to provide intensive support to some folks in the county experiencing severe mental illness. California voters (that’s us) approved funding a higher level of mental health services a few years ago with the proviso that 51% of the funds have to go to help the severely mentally ill. Our Behavioral Health Department did excellent outreach and has designed a program for folks who for a variety of reasons were falling through the cracks – many of them homeless. The goal is to undergird them with a team that will support and help them ultimately function independently. Once they do, the team will identify and begin working with new folks.

5. Tuolumne General Medical Facility and the TGH Closure account are performing as was forecasted despite the slow down in the economy. There has been a slow-down but Long Term Care and Psych units are holding their own for now. The Board has asked for a monthly report to watch a few areas of concern (Medicare reimbursments are somewhat higher than anticipated and thus revenues are down), but for the most part both are on track.

6. The Board approved passing through $430,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the Jamestown Sanitary District so they can get going with much needed repairs. Ron Boyd Snee has done and will continue to do an excellent job for the District!

7. The Board authorized expending CDBG funds for local food bank, job training, and home meal delivery for seniors programs. In addition, we authorized applying for CDBG planning funds to figure out a way to solve downtown Tuolumne’s parking issues that have prevented businesses from opening and, if money allows, a study of what it would take to bring Tuolumne’s alleys up to standards for future use, as well.

8. Groveland will have another fire engine in town – County Fire will be leasing a surplus engine to provide better south-county coverage for $1 a year.

9. Two new Board members were appointed to the Tuolumne Fire District – both with considerable fire fighting and administration experience. Joe Turner and Rommie Jones will join the Board there, bringing it back up to a total of 4. Normally Fire District Board members are elected by residents of the District, but due to several resignations and the fact that the 2 remaining Board members didn’t constitute a quorum to appoint, our Board needed to. Now that the Fire District Board is up to 4 (1 more than their quorum) they will appoint a 5th member at their next meeting.

10. The Board is still moving forward with consideration of a draft inclusionary ordinance that will provide necessary workforce housing. Staff and others listened to Board comments at the last hearing and simplified it. Significant concessions were made by the affordable housing folks and the builders. Staff’s draft has been sent back to the 4 planning commissions for review and comment and there will be opportunity for people on both sides of the issue to weigh in on the latest iteration. It will come back to the Board in several months – hopefully for the last time – to be approved.

10. We took action (5/0) to approve the purchase of the Gardella Ranch property for components (part or all) of a Law and Justice Center. The action in no way requires consumation of the purchase if the environmental review process determines it won’t be a feasible site and it in no way commits the county to locate all of the law enforcement facilities there. What it does do is provide a place that could conceivably host as many law enforcement functions as we need to place there, depending on what we can afford to pay for. To do the whole project as envisioned by architects and staff would be very expensive and we haven’t committed to that. We have committed to taking another step forward though to secure the land and to see what’s possible. And that’s a good thing.

So what didn’t go so well? Four things:

1. Due to the slowdown in the economy, CAO Craig Pedro told the Board General Fund revenues are down $252,000 this quarter from what was anticipated. Consequently, our contingencies fund has been reduced to $526,070. The contingencies fund helps absorb any unanticipated costs over the course of the year. Once gone, we would have no choice but to cut General Fund services. Not a good thing.

2. Staff requested $5,800 from the contingencies fund to hire a consultant to prepare a community action plan for economic development. While this plan is a necessary part of charting our course, I voted against it. Why would I do such a thing? Not because I oppose the plan or spending the money, but because I feel it is premature to authorize economic development expenditures before the Board is presented with a second staff presentation on overall economic development efforts. Last July we were presented with a range of 14 economic development items that could be pursued and we directed our CAO to return with some recommendations on prioritization. I need to see where the community action plan falls on the list and actually feel it would be a more appropriate undertaking for an economic development commission. The item needed 4/5 vote, but only got a 2/3. I’m not adverse to bringing it back, I just believe we need to finish our economic development prioritization before we start working on anything on that list.

3.Our agenda had too many important issues to do them all justice. Despite the fact that they were all very importnat, we didn’t have time to talk through the community action plan, hiring a grant writer, or a housing person to coordinate efforts for increasing low and very low income housing options in the County. The good thing is that we can bring all three items back if and when we get some sense that the areas of concern can be worked out.

4. The inclusionary ordinance… Unfortunately, the discussion on the proposed options and drafts got personal, eroding considerable forward progress that had been made in negotiating a workable solution. Four of five Board members wanted some sort of ordinance, but at least three of us weren’t happy about what we sent back to the Planning Commissions. Despite my reservations about the draft that went back, I voted for that draft only to keep the ordinance alive for further consideration by the Board.

So, yes, there are a number of things I’d change if I could about yesterday’s outcomes, but overall things went pretty well.

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I like going places: out West, west of the West, and all the way around the back of the globe to the East. I like to go by train, plane, automobile, horseback. Whatever. And I like writing about what I see, feel, hear, smell, and touch all along the way and once I get there.

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