Monday, April 04, 2005

Officials discuss ways to build a better Solano County

Officials discuss ways to build a better county

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - County officials gathered recently to brainstorm a new set of goals and to mull ways to improve service to those who live, learn, work and play in Solano County. It was a meeting void of decisions but full of ideas. With the help of an outside consultant, county staff and elected officials spoke openly about what the county does right and what it could do better.
At times, the discussion spilled over into the realm of individual agendas but, for the most part, focused on more general and seemingly benign topics, such as choosing a mission statement and vision statement. The group also decided on a list of values that included high-brow promises of integrity, dignity, excellence and accountability.

Even among county leaders there was dissension as to what the ultimate goals of the county should be. For instance, some wanted to focus on bringing more jobs to the county, while others wanted to preserve open space and agriculture lands. Some wanted to look further out into the future, and others wanted to focus on solutions for today's problems.

"To do a countywide vision statement is difficult because there are so many different ideas," Supervisor Duane Kromm said at one point.

The county wants input from residents as to ways local government could improve its services, so those ideas can be discussed at a second strategy session April 18, Kromm said. After running through a list of things the county does well, which included various versions of financial stability, staff discussed the harm caused by inconsistent customer service, a poor relationship with the city of Vacaville, inadequate homeless services and even the local effects of the war in Iraq. County officials said partnerships are solid with most of the cities in Solano County, while relations with Vacaville have been strained. They didn't bring up specific problems, but indicated Vacaville staff is "difficult to work with."

They also said the county suffers from "bad press."

The meeting's facilitator, Marilyn Snider of Snider and Associates, suggested the county take the first steps toward improving relationships. "Perhaps you need to improve both internal and external communications," she said.

Other goals were to improve the lives of children and their families, to promote agriculture and support responsible land use and economic development, to maintain a safe community, to improve the health and well-being of those who live and work here, to invest in the future and to increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

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