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Boulder County Commissioners Outline Five-year Strategic Priorities

December 12, 2018

Boulder County commissioners on Tuesday adopted preliminary strategic priorities, which they said will guide their focus over the next five years.

The county had done strategic planning in the early 2000s, but this new plan is more overarching than previous efforts, Commissioner Cindy Domenico said in an interview after the meeting. The commissioners had begun work on a similar initiative in 2013, but were delayed by the 2013 flood and recovery efforts.

“I think we would’ve been a little further down the road had we not had the huge obligation of that recovery process,” Domenico said in the interview, but she added that it’s exciting to now see the work come together. ”... It’s very exciting. I think it gives people a place to focus.”

The five priorities they chose are: affordable living; climate action; equity and justice; land and water stewardship; and organizational and financial stewardship.

“As you look at what we’re going to go into some detail about today, what you’ll find is many of the things we’re listing here is work that is already ongoing, and will continue to be ongoing and involve every person that works at the county,” Commissioner Deb Gardner said. “There may be a couple new ideas here, but I think mostly we’re carrying on with a lot of the good work we’re already doing.”

The priorities came together through interviews of department leaders and elected officials, data analysis, a multi-step prioritization process, and reviews by teams of subject matters experts, said policy analyst Summer Laws.

County staff will provide feedback on the priorities, which will be finalized early next year. The priorities will inform future budgeting processes and undergo annual progress reviews, at a minimum.

For affordable living, the commissioners envision implementing Boulder County’s Regional Affordable Housing Plan and increasing access to all modes of transportation. That includes working in a statewide group to push for increased access to affordable housing; committing Boulder County Housing Authority to build or acquire at least 500 permanently affordable housing units in five years; and ensuring transportation affordability through long-term planning and encouraging bus rapid transit, the commissioners said.

“It’s really that combination of housing and transportation because the relationship between the two of those is very much linked,” Gardner said. “People oftentimes drive far enough away to find a house that they can afford, even thought the combination of those two costs can be quite a lot of money.”

For climate action, the commissioners envision reducing the county’s internal energy consumption and implementing 100 percent renewable energy by 2024; electrifying transportation; planning for climate resiliency and mitigation; and influencing state policy. That includes analyzing buildings for energy inefficiencies, upgrading existing buildings and setting a bar of LEED Gold-level construction in new buildings, as well as building climate resilience into the budget and management structure of the county government.

“That shouldn’t come as a surprise,” Commissioner Elise Jones said. “It is an existential threat to our planet. We already know that we’re feeling the impacts of the changing climate here in Boulder County and across the state in the form of decreased snowpack, extreme weather events, more frequent and intense wildfires, more drought, more high heat days.”

For equity and justice, the commissioners envision implementing Boulder County’s cultural responsiveness and inclusion advisory committee work; implementing criminal justice reform; and improving access to mental health services. That includes the construction of an alternative sentencing facility and prioritizing access to timely, affordable and effective care.

“Mental and behavioral health are areas of health equity that are very important, as important as physical well-being,” Domenico said.

For land and water stewardship, the commissioners envision prioritizing land acquisition; management and stewardship; water for agriculture and the ecosystem; and soil health and carbon sequestration. That includes protecting open space lands, examining sustainable agriculture; managing the wildland interface, improving soil health, and expanding and using Boulder County’s water portfolio.

For organizational and financial stewardship, the commissioners envision examining resources and appropriate scaling of county government; support of the county workforce; increasing efficiency and transparency of the county financial system and improving administrative functions. That includes supporting statewide efforts to address the problems the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights has created, Domenico said.

“The bigger, overall picture ... is that commitment to effectively use taxpayer funds through efficient and sustainable organizational and financial practices,” Domenico said. “We have a huge responsibility as county government to deliver services that citizens look for, and we have a huge responsibility to the citizens to be financially accountable.”

Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, cniedringhaus@dailycamera.com