January 9, 2020 — Strategic plans came up a lot at this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, from long-term priorities for the county to the patchy ambulance service to making life a little easier for small business owners.
Last month, Paul Hosford lost his mother-in-law, Joan Davis, after she waited hours for an ambulance to transport her out of the county for specialized care. During public comment, two members of the Hosford family asked for an update from the ad hoc committee on emergency medical services. Supervisor Ted Williams delivered a grim analysis. Close to half the county’s population is on Medical, which will pay ambulance companies about $120 for a $2500 ride.
Williams believes that another group that’s feeling an economic pinch is small scale entrepreneurs. Maryanne Petrillo, the CEO of West Business Development Company, agreed in a letter she sent to the board outlining the months’-long odyssey of a small business owner trying to get a business license. Petrillo wrote that it wasn’t just the fees that added up to over $40,000 in pre-launch expenses. It was the time it took to communicate with county officials, sift through documents, drive across the county and wait around for bureaucratic details to be finalized. In the meantime, rent and tax bills piled up. Williams asked the board to take a look at how Lake County’s business permit structure works, with fewer types of enterprise requiring paperwork. Supervisor Dan Gjerde cautioned that homeowners are not always enthusiastic about undeclared business activities taking place in their neighborhoods, while Supervisor Carre Brown reminded her colleagues about the health and safety purposes of such permits. Supervisor John McCowen opined that the zoning code is in dire need of an upgrade, and provided a brief explanation of state environmental regulations which counties are required to oversee. CEO Carmel Angelo said she thought county staff could work within the parameters of the agenda item, which was not to eliminate business permits, but to look into what it would take to make most of them optional.
The board agreed unanimously to direct Angelo’s office to research what it would take to reduce burdens on small business owners. And, in an item that was a direct response to last year’s grand jury report, called “Who Runs Mendocino County,” which castigated the board for its lack of a long term strategic plan, the board took initial steps toward consolidating all the plans within the various departments. Gjerde introduced the item, including a brief synopsis of an organization he thinks does a good job of coming up with a good plan and reporting regularly on its activities.
McCowen pointed out that in many ways, the county budget is a statement of what the priorities are. But, in an effort to synch up all the plans of the various departments, the board voted unanimously to direct staff to review all the existing county plans and consolidate them into a single draft, which the board will revisit in two months.