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County Council tweaks Strategic Leadership Plan

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County > Focus areas and goals are scrutinized and prioritized

By Arin McKenna

The Los Alamos County Council met in a work session Saturday morning to reexamine the county’s Strategic Leadership Plan. Council reached consensus on some tweaks for the plan, as well prioritization of the various goals.

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The plan was first discussed during a Sept. 17 work session, where it became clear that many councilors questioned the number of focus areas and goals, their applicability to today’s environment and the need for prioritization in order to better focus the work of county staff.

Council Chair Geoff Rodgers began by defining the goals of the session.

“Five of the seven members of this council had nothing to do with adopting the plan, so where we find ourselves is that council is in some sense governed by this plan but really didn’t have anything to do with the creation of it. So what we’re hoping to do this morning is have a very thorough discussion about what’s in the plan, what the purpose of it is and see where we go from there.

“In my mind, there’s really nothing sacred about the plan, but what is sacred is the process we went through to get there. It was almost a year of multiple meetings, of the council going through its meetings, going back out for public input, and then taking that public input into consideration. So, if as a council we want to make fundamental changes to this plan, there’s nothing that says we can’t, but we really have to consider a process. It’s going to be much more involved than just bringing it back to a council meeting for a motion.”

After the September session, councilors paired off to examine the plan and return with any suggested changes. Councilors Frances Berting and Rick Reiss, as well as David Izraelevitz and Pete Sheehey, recommended relatively minor changes.

Councilors Kristen Henderson and Steve Girrens, on the other hand, proposed a major revision. However, many of their suggestions were set aside as too specific for a high level policy plan.

“The only pitfall I see is if you put a tactic it may become a roadblock in achieving our overall goal,” County Administrator Harry Burgess said. “My recommendation is to keep it a little bit broader so staff can take another action to achieve the goal. Things do happen, and that could potentially put us in a place of banging our heads against the wall with no anticipated results.”

Council did accept Henderson’s and Girrens’ suggestion for reorganizing the document into three categories: economic vitality, quality of life and quality of government.

Council also suggested adding some goals and rewriting others. The main additions are:
• Support the development of quality primary, secondary, career and life-long educational institutions.
• Promote maintenance and enhancement of housing stock quality.
• Support development of affordable workforce housing.
• Improve transparency in policy setting and implementation.
• Strengthen coordination and cooperation between county government, LANL, and the regional and national partners.

Council added several goals related to economic development. They are:
• Promote a strong and diverse economic base through support of the current business base, recruiting additional businesses and encouraging new business growth.
• Collaborate with Los Alamos National Laboratory as the area’s number one employer, and support associated spinoff businesses.
• Significantly improve the quantity and quality of retail and tourism business.
• Revitalize and eliminate blight in the downtown areas of Los Alamos and White Rock.
• Manage commercial growth while following an updated, concise, and consistent comprehensive plan.

Council also prioritized the various goals, with some caveats.

“Whatever priority this group puts on here, it’s going to change next year when conditions on the ground change. It’s going to change next year when the constitution of the body changes,” Rodgers said.
“This prioritization is a short-term exercise.”

Rodgers also stressed that all the goals were important and should be considered when staff is developing tactics and a budget. Other councilors pointed out that they had given less emphasis to goals that the county has already made significant gains toward achieving.

Each councilor tagged their high, mid-range and low priorities, which resulted in some clearly defined structure for staff to follow.

“Maintain quality essential services and supporting infrastructure” and “Support the objective of Los Alamos Public Schools of ranking in the top 100 public schools in the nation” topped the list, with “Promote a strong and diverse economic base through support of the current business base, recruiting additional businesses and encouraging new business growth,” “Significantly improve the quantity and quality of retail and tourism business,” “Revitalize and eliminate blight in the downtown areas of Los Alamos and White Rock” and “Support development of affordable workforce housing following close behind.

“Support the development of quality primary, secondary, career and life-long educational institutions,” “Promote maintenance and enhancement of housing stock quality,” “Create a communication process that provides measurable improvement in citizen trust in government” and “Improve transparency in policy setting and implementation” fell at the lower end of the spectrum.

The proposed revisions will be posted on the county’s Open Forum website for citizen input and brought back for a vote in January.