Audience participates in future planning at Town Meeting

At last Monday’s Three Rivers Town Hall meeting (November 4), attendees were updated on park events; met Mike Boudreaux, Tulare County acting sheriff; and participated in an interactive planning session using mixed media that soon will be the standard for all public meetings.
National Parks— Dana Dierkes, public information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, led off the monthly forum by mentioning that the “Escape to Sequoia” ad campaign was up and running on the L.A. Times website with the goal of generating some visits to Three Rivers. The campaign, funded by the Tulare County tourism office, was launched to restore tourist dollars lost during last month’s government shutdown.
With the Veterans Day weekend (November 9 to 11) being the last fee-free promotion of 2013, the parks are preparing for a busy three days, Dierkes said. 
Park shuttles will return and be running for the holidays: November 28 through December 1 and December 26 through January 1. The free shuttles run between the Giant Forest Museum, Sherman Tree parking area along the Generals Highway, Wolverton, and Wuksachi Lodge.
The audience applauded the fact that there is currently no road construction on the Generals Highway or anywhere in the local national parks, the first time that’s been the case since May 2010.
Sheriff’s Department— Mike Boudreaux, acting sheriff, told the audience he is filling in for Bill Wittman, who is on medical leave, but he wants the job long term and is a candidate in the June 2014 election for Tulare County Sheriff-Coroner. Born in Porterville and raised in California Hot Springs, he said his dad worked 30 years with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and that he became a deputy at age 19 in 1986.
Boudreaux graduated from Porterville High School and Porterville College and then earned a B.S. in criminal justice and an M.S. in administration. He also attended the FBI Academy where he received some valuable leadership training.
“What I learned is that everywhere you go in the world there are good people doing good and bad people doing bad,” Boudreaux said. “If you treat people fairly, they will follow your lead.”
Boudreaux said the department is committed to providing overlapping coverage for Scott Doyle, the resident deputy in Three Rivers.
“In the busy summer months next year we will have a school resource officer assigned up here so during peak periods there will be two officers on patrol,” Boudreaux promised. “That’s in addition to officers from the gang unit who will also be up here at various times.”
Planning Department— Ben Kimball, assistant director of planning for Tulare County Association of Governments, hosted a review of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) that his office is currently revising. A native of Lindsay, Kimball said he’s spent lots of time in Three Rivers camping, fishing, hiking, and has relatives who have lived locally.
The agency’s primary job, Kimball said, is trying to lobby and squeeze the state and federal governments for transportation funds that more often than not go to the big cities. What the RTP does is “model” transportation improvements based on land use.
“Once we identify those needs we can go after the funding,” Kimball said. “Currently, Highway 99 is being reconstructed through Tulare County and big improvements are in the works.” 
Kimball progressed through a series of slides that explained four possible planning scenarios, including “no action.”  But that one is out because Tulare County is slated to add 250,000 new residents and 70,000 new homes by 2040.
Only the Bay Area commuter shed in the North Valley is expected to grow faster than the Central Valley, Kimball said. The plan’s three scenarios that map out growth strategies are called Trend (business as usual), Blueprint (some sustainable elements), and Blueprint Plus (compact growth/most sustainable long-term strategy).
“The RTP helps us develop strategies for this growth that take into account factors like adding new businesses, the impact on the environment, and air quality, to name a few,” Kimball said. 
This is where the audience comes in to help TCAG model this planning. Each member of the audience was given a clicker and asked to vote on several key issues.
“We want to hear about you and your preferences as to what, if any, scenario you would like to see,” Kimball said. “There are no right answers, only your input that we use to adopt a scenario and strategy based on these votes we get at meetings in the county’s cities and small communities.”
The first nine slides asked audience members to identify demographics so their responses can be considered in context. The questions included age, race, household income, housing type, numbers in household, etc.
What is new about this clicker presentation is that the votes are instantly tallied and audience and presenters see results within seconds. For example, 54.29 percent of meeting attendees were age 35-65; 97.27 percent live in a single-family detached home; 58.33 percent live in a two-person household, 75 percent who attended were White, 16.6 percent were Hispanic.  
Of those who do work, 65.62 percent drive to work alone. The most important priority among eight categories of choices: 47.22 percent voted for economy/jobs while 13.9 percent voted for ag land preservation.
The almost complete lack of area public transportation was distributed among the answers to the question: What are the two biggest barriers to using public transportation? 24.14 percent voted “does not go where I need” and one less person voted “does not stop near my home.”
The responses were equally mixed when the questions were: “should the RTP encourage homes near jobs” or “should the RTP encourage jobs near homes.” Forty percent agreed that homes should be near jobs; that number dipped to 25.7 percent who agreed that jobs should be by homes.
Sixty-six percent strongly agreed that farmland and open space should be preserved; the same number agreed that growth should be promoted that conserves water.
Even a cursory survey like this one demonstrated obstacles that will be confronting planners as they strategize land use for future growth. To have growth that conserves water and open space, is sensitive to the environment, and makes more transportation options viable then development must be compact with higher density.
The single-family detached home and the Three Rivers lifestyle won’t be going away anytime soon but it is problematical if it can remain sustainable and for how long. That’s what the RTP is all about – planning a sustainable strategy to where we are going in the future.
For a complete breakdown of the results on all 23 questions posed by the TCAG planners at the November town meeting email your request to The Kaweah Commonwealth:
There will be no town meeting scheduled for December. The next regularly scheduled meeting sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation will be held on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.

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