Another View: Rocklin's sustainability plan: 'Good ... better … best'

By: Ricky Horst, Rocklin city manager
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The ideas and concepts as presented within the “City of Rocklin Sustainability Plan” represent the consensus direction of the City Council as given during the most recent City Council Retreat. We welcome your comments, ideas and recommendations:

With the city of Rocklin projected to hit its build-out population in under two decades, it becomes imperative that we begin now to prepare. Most cities, inclusive of Rocklin, employ a growth strategy with reliance on new development revenues to balance the budget and support core municipal services. Void of new greenfield growth potential, the city will need to transition from a growth model to a sustainability model. The city’s goal is to be able to live within our means and yet continue to ensure our way-of-life expectations. To do so, it is critical that we have a “sustainability plan.”

The plan will center on preparing for the non-growth years. What looks healthy in the short-term may not prove to be supportable over the long-term. A 10-year financial plan will provide a fiscal management approach to realize our vision “to be a sustainable community, both economically and environmentally.” A 10-year financial plan will be a useful tool for developing strategies to effectively meet community goals and for building the economic stability of the city. Such financial planning will enable us to foresee potential problems early, giving the city time to make appropriate course corrections before problems develop or intensify. It will enable us to determine if we can support today’s decisions tomorrow, or if we can support future projects and their associated operation and maintenance cost. The 10-year financial plan will increase the accountability to stakeholders by communicating explicitly and clearly the financial situation of the city over a 10-year period. Such financial planning will discourage piecemeal decisions. In essence, the 10-Year financial plan will be our crystal ball, allowing us to see into the future.

We must build a sustainable tax base. This next year, the city of Rocklin will conduct a land economics evaluation to include a market analysis and business absorption study. Land economics involves evaluating the appropriate mix of land uses required to balance the tax base and provide for the future retail, service and employment needs of the community. In addition, projections of land demand for residential, commercial and industrial uses are provided based on population and employment projections as we move ever closer to our “build-out.”

We have to ensure that we keep our debt low. Dollars will be needed to support public safety operations, core municipal service and maintenance of infrastructure. We cannot follow the federal government pattern of spending high percentages of our annual budget to cover debt interest. Likewise, we must fully understand the financial burden of maintaining our aging infrastructure and deploy plans to ensure our ability to do so.

Typically cities concentrate on planning for new growth and few have done it better than the city of Rocklin. But this is a different time and while we must be attentive to aesthetics, service provisions and similar issues, we must also become activists and entrepreneurs more than regulators. We must devise strategies that will bring investment into the city, revitalize the city’s neighborhoods and grow businesses and jobs. This effort will require a new approach, a new way of thinking and a new set of tools.

Currently in draft form, we will soon introduce the “Community Investment Plan.” As the vision for Rocklin is long-term in nature and will change little, if at all, over the course of many years, it is the “work plan” that sits at the other end of the spectrum. The work plan, or action items, will define specific projects and tasks to be undertaken year to year, budget to budget, coupled with a new set of tools to assist us in our efforts. We look forward to the community engaging in this process.

We must create/maintain a “lifestyle” (a well-educated and prosperous citizenry) – Rocklin has to continue to be one of Northern California’s premier communities. In order to do so, we must ensure the public safety, provide for parks and other esthetic amenities, deliver quality infrastructure and have excellent educational venues. It is my belief that we must do this in order to maintain our prominence as a first-class community. Realized is the fact that our citizens are our greatest economic asset.

We must innovate, create and, yes, even risk-take. We must exercise a new kind of redevelopment and work to reuse and renew elements of our community that might be on the decline. And let this process begin in Old Town Rocklin. Visualize resurgence in the old town business district. One that invites residential renewal, incorporates enhanced community events, static and performing art venues and appropriate mixed-use projects while maintaining our sense of place and community heritage as a family-friendly community.

Rocklin understands the important role businesses play in the local economy and in our ability to retain our desired quality of life now and into the future. We are proud to be home to a wide variety of successful businesses and welcome new and growing businesses. Rocklin does have its advantages. Rocklin has very favorable demographics, including a highly educated workforce and one of the highest household incomes levels for cities in the region.

And at the end of the day, we will be a sustainable city, we will continue to enjoy the quality of life we have all come to expect, we will live within our means and we will strengthen and enhance Rocklin’s standing as one of Northern California’s premiere cities.