Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Making Pasco better takes strong leadership

If Pasco County has a new governing strategy, it is this: Let's make this a better place to live. Commissioners received a preview of an updated strategic plan Tuesday morning and will vote on it next month. It sets goals through 2017, includes typical mission and vision statements and, in a nutshell, calls for making the community better, stimulating economic growth and improving the internal performance of county staffers.

What it really means is — we can do better.

Some of it is a matter of cutting through bureaucracy. The county wants to reduce response times for constituents requesting government services; do a better job of maintaining roads, utilities and public buildings; and start construction projects earlier.

Some of it the county already is trying to do. Shortening commute times for residents doesn't mean building more highway lanes. Rather, it will be a function of adding jobs closer to home by recruiting new industries or helping existing business to expand.

Other elements involve better marketing to increase attendance at county-sponsored events and to improve the overall image of the county among its own residents.

It must be noted this plan is a work in progress. County staff suggested increasing bike paths, sidewalks and trails by 25 percent annually, effectively doubling the current inventory in less than four years. Except staffers haven't finished tallying the amount of trails, paths and sidewalks that exist currently.

More importantly, other ambitious aspects will require a coordinated effort to reach the goals of reduced crime, increased home ownership and improved property values in designated redevelopment areas.

Commissioners, too, will have to examine their own spending priorities to meet this goal. You can't shortchange the code enforcement department, for instance, at the same time you're trying to boost residential property values in older neighborhoods not governed by deed restrictions and homeowner associations.

Likewise, transportation issues remain unresolved. The county has started a cross-county bus route to connect east and west Pasco. But limited hours of operation system-wide aren't a help to night-time commuters, and mass transit remains unavailable to under-served areas like Moon Lake and Shady Hills.

"Everybody in the county should be able to live, work and play, but if you live in a poor area of the county, you can't get out,'' said Commissioner Pat Mulieri.

Her lament is familiar, but she and other commissioners have been unwilling to commit to expanding mass transit system amid constrained county budgets.

It's easy to talk abstractly. Accomplishments, in this plan, are measurable. Achieving the goal of building a thriving community with a better quality of life will require strong leadership from the dais. Commissioners must ensure the "we-can-do-better" attitude includes them.

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