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Fortunetelling government
by Joshua H. Silavent
Jan 08, 2011 | 215 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — The Washoe County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday to begin a scenario planning process that will identify trends, evaluate priorities and prepare for likely political, economic and social outcomes over the next five to 10 years.

The workshop session was the third in recent months, preceded by discussions on financial and operational stability and human resource management. Department heads and other government staff were on hand to lend their voices to the process.

The future role of county government was tops among the many concerns commissioners expressed. The state’s budget crunch has made the prospect of pushing down public services to the local level more likely, commissioners said, and providing these services to meet the needs of all citizens, especially with reduced revenues, is no easy feat.

“Government can’t be everything to everybody,” Commissioner Bonnie Weber said.

Planning for “what if” scenarios also presents many challenges, commissioners said, particularly in a globalized and technological world where change comes rapidly.

As such, Commissioner Kitty Jung said scenario plans needed to be adaptable and flexible.

Options are essential to addressing all possible political, social and economic outcomes so that transitioning from a conceptual world to reality can occur smoothly. Spotting trends and reading market forecasts, commissioners said, would be valuable tools in the transition process.

From the political side of things, building consensus and having the will to make tough decisions were among the values cited by commissioners.

On the economic side, understanding boom and bust cycles, making use of social networks to appeal to a younger workforce, diversifying the economy and harnessing a spirit of volunteerism were identified as important.

Finally, within the social fabric of Washoe County, preparing for a generational turnover as baby boomers move into retirement, developing new educational initiatives and predicting the impact of immigration on service levels were said to be necessary areas of focus.

However, commissioners said it was important not to make too many broad assumptions about the future, as it is ultimately full of unknown qualities.

“Government sets the parameters,” Commissioner Bob Larkin said, but those too must be nimble to change and innovation.
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