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  • Mark Joseph

Lessons Learned, part three: Time for a Town Hall

Most people I talked to this campaign season love living in American Canyon. We are a safe and welcoming community. We still have a strong sense of community, and we provide a good level of service, both in terms of governmental programs and retail/commercial opportunities.

But there are a number of people frustrated how the City is growing, especially over land use decisions--why are we building homes when there's so much traffic is probably the number one question. You can offer explanations, but it occurs to me--we're approaching it all wrong.

To start with, there is a reason for most of the actions our City takes. Usually, it's driven by economics (we need growth to pay the bills, since no one wants to raise taxes) legal issues (property owners have the right to develop their property) or State Mandates (for example, the State passed a law requiring our City to make parking and other concessions if a developer agrees to build more affordable homes).

What we need to do is talk to our residents and business owners and explain all of this. We should convene one or more Town Halls in which we present the facts and explain what our vision for the City is and why we're doing what we're doing.

But this should be a two-way conversation. For example, we assume people don't want to pay more fees or taxes in order to avoid more growth--but if the community values the way things are over new development, then maybe modest increases in taxes or fees might be an option.

On the other hand, if the community wants more retail services and businesses, that takes a bigger population. In these Town Hall discussions, we should arrive at a consensus on what that population target should be, and then stick with that in terms of our ultimate size.

If we don't want to be a bedroom community, what are we willing to do to create better paying jobs, so more of us can live and work in American Canyon? What industries are going to consider moving here, and what do we need to do--or have--to attract them? Can we lower the cost of housing so our existing workers can afford to move here? And so on.

If we enjoy our open space and outdoor amenities, we should talk about what we're willing to do (or not do, for that matter) to preserve them.

In short, we need to talk about all the trade-offs that go into making our land use decisions, policy decisions and so forth. The values of the community should drive the decision-makers, and not necessarily consultants or outside influences. But we have to understand the consequences, too, and be willing to accept them.

All of this will drive our General Plan Update process, which is currently underway. So that means we need to start this process sooner, rather than later.

Ten years ago, the City conducted a community-wide series of public meetings, focus groups and surveys. The goal was to define our Mission, Vision and Values. It was a very comprehensive effort and it has guided our actions for the last ten years.

Much has changed since 2013, and the time has come to update our Mission, Vision and Values--based on a new set of public meetings and surveys. Time for a Town Hall meeting. A time to decide what and who we want to be, why it works for us, and how we'll get there.

If re-elected, I will advocate for this opportunity to hear from our residents, and make our General Plan represent the community's vision.



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