This graphic included in the Draft Summary of the city's Draft Economic Development Implementation Plan illustrates how "ideas will be screened through the seven elements priority algorithm to determine if the idea is of significant value. Ideas that are deemed to be reasonable to accomplish and of significant value become city projects."

City’s new economic development director will ‘develop and market’ city’s Economic Development Implementation Plan, but the city refuses to share that plan with the public

According to the Susanville City Council, transparency is among its highest priorities, but as the council marches forward with a controversial economic development partnership with the Susanville Indian Rancheria and the hiring of an economic development director as a city management level employee, it refuses to disclose a draft of its Economic Development Implementation Plan to the public.

After many stops and starts, the council finally approved a controversial Memorandum of Understanding with the SIR at its April 6 meeting with Mayor Quincy McCourt and councilmembers Thomas Herrera and Kevin Stafford voting aye and councilmembers Mendy Schuster and Russ Brown voting nay.

At its Wednesday, April 19 meeting, the council announced the SIR Tribal Council also had approved the MOU, and the council unanimously approved a job description for the new economic development director position. The council approved several changes requested by Schuster including that the successful applicant possesses a bachelor’s degree. The original minimum qualification was simply possession of a California driver’s license.

According to a draft of that job description, “The incumbent will develop and market Susanville’s Economic Development Implementation Plan, serve in the role of collaborator/manager, coordinate marketing activities, assist in annexations, assist in the development of tax sharing agreements and influence and train city staff in all matters pertaining to economic development. The incumbent will provide overall management of the Susanville’s Economic Development Implementation Plan and will be responsible for formulating recommendations as well as formulating the plan’s objectives and work plan and conducting outreach with the business community.”

Among the economic development director’s duties — “Attend meetings of the City Council and SIR Tribal Business Council and other public meetings. Advise the City Administrator and Tribal Administrator and presents facts, information and recommendations to them.” Historically, SIR meetings have only been open to tribal members.

Responding to late February California Public Record Act requests by Lassen News regarding economic development activities by the city of Susanville, Prentice/Long, the city’s legal counsel, asked for a “short extension” until April 3 “to review potentially responsive records held by the city of Susanville” regarding the city’s Economic Development Implementation Plan.

And on April 3, as promised, the city attorneys finally responded to that portion of Lassen News’ PRA request and declined to release the document.

“The city of Susanville is unable to comply with your request as it seeks copies of internal working drafts of the implementation plan that have neither been finalized by city staff, nor submitted to the city council for review and /or approval, and therefore (are) exempt from disclosure under Government Code § 7927.500,” the law firm wrote. “As the plan is not itself complete, the executive summary is still subject to change until the plan is finalized. The public interest in avoiding the confusion that is likely to result when different versions of the same documents are released to the public clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosing them (Gov. Code § 7922.000).

“Moreover, the internal preliminary plan drafts are instrumental to the city’s decision- making process and premature disclosure of said documents would discourage candid discussion and thereby undermine the council’s ability to do its job — ie., make policy decisions (Wilson v. Superior Court (1996) 59 Cal. Rptr. 2d 537; Rogers v. Superior Court (1993) 23 Cal. Rotr. 2d 412).

Schuster expressed a similar concern regarding the MOU at the council’s April 6 meeting.

“We as a council have not sat down and discussed exactly what we expect from (this) economic development position, and what we want, what our goals are, or anything like that,” Schuster said. “None of that has been discussed among us.”

“However, as an accommodation,” the city attorneys wrote, “the city of Susanville is providing a copy of the Draft Executive Summary previously presented to the Council … “

Several former and current city council members worked on an ad-hoc committee to prepare the plan, but McCourt is the only member to have served since its inception.

One of the first elements of the plan, according to the draft summary, is the hiring of a “collaborator manager” who will “work with agencies and stakeholders to build support for implementing economic development.”

According to the draft summary, the apparently expansive plan includes several sections.

According to the draft summary, “The Introduction Section provides an overview of the plan and how to read it, each EDIP section is briefly explained. The Elements Section describes seven key elements that are essential to successful economic development. The Elements Section dives deep into the correlation between different types of economic development sectors and how they overlap. The focus funnel screening process is heavily dependent on the Element Screening Algorithm. The Parameters Section provides information and depicts what are resources and needs are to implement the EDIP, who key players are in successful economic development, and shares the city’s vision and mission. The Marketing Section is a policy section that promotes transparency, communication and branding. Marketing is an ongoing task that is critical to create awareness, build public trust and promote the area for economic activity. The Budget Section provides information on budget needs to implement the plan. The Enhancement Section provides policy guidance and recognizes the value of community engagement and involvement, providing services to create a livable community, this is part of economic development. The Implementation Section provides policy guidance and discusses the steward role, the focus funnel and priority algorithm, and presents three implementation steps. Finally, the Timeline Section provides policy guidance for 1, 3, 5, 10, and 20+ year plans.”

According to that draft summary, “In fall of 2021, in the shadow of announced closure of the California Correctional Center, the Susanville City Council prioritized the need to consistently focus on economic development. An Economic Development Ad Hoc Committee was created to do more than develop an economic deployment plan, the effort was to develop an ‘implementation’ plan that would open a gateway of opportunities to enhance the quality of life for Susanville residents and visitors. An Economic Development Implementation Plan Framework (EDIPF) has been created to guide the city in becoming more proactive in its approach to economic development. The EDIPF envisions a robust process centered around implementation by providing practical tools to be utilized when prioritizing our diverse communities’ ideas and efforts into achievable goals. This living document framework is consistent with the city’s General Plan and will evolve regularly to accomplish viable economic implementation strategies, and milestones for success at 1,3, 5, 10, and 20 + year intervals. To be successful: the city will employ constant effort with intention, diligence, consistency overtime, and strive to impart the vision of today on the leaders of tomorrow.

“When asked ‘where is Susanville,’ the answer often given by local residents is, ‘it’s near Reno, NV’ or ‘Northern California, in the Eastern Sierras.’ Less often used is, ‘it’s where the Sierra’s greet the Cascades’ or ‘it’s the top area to live on the Pacific Coast for hunting and fishing.’ Susanville is the trailhead for several hundred miles of trails for off-road vehicles, mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders. Becoming a destination for recreationalists has long been the economic strategy for Susanville and surrounding areas. However, Susanville still struggles economically. Let’s strive for a time when people ask, ‘is it near Susanville?’ ‘Where does Burning Man take place?’ ‘Is it near Susanville?’ ‘Where is the Bizz Johnson Trail? Is it near Susanville?'”

According to the draft summary “ideas come first” — “There are so many great ideas that come forward from elected officials, community members and staff, too many to reasonably accomplish. When community members bring ideas forward, it is necessary to break the ideas down into actionable components. To be successful, we need to say no to a lot of great ideas, but we will keep track of them over time. Using the Focus Funnel the EDIP will convert ideas into actionable components so that that they can be evaluated against the plan elements to identify which ideas are worth pursuing by screening them through a priority algorithm (under development). From there project components will be scoped, scheduled, and implemented. This provides much needed focus when considering our limited staffing and financial resources.”

Here’s the timeline from the summary
Year 1 – Action Plan

  1. Collaborator manager – Work with agencies and stakeholders to build support for implementing economic development.
  2. Public trust – Starts from within, build trust for EDIPF by collaborating with city staff, county staff, Susanville Indian Rancheria staff and community stakeholders. Use See Click Fix App to engage community, clean up Susanville. Focus on public safety.
  3. Existing and entrepreneurial – Survey existing businesses to learn about their challenges and expectations. Establish the role of the city, county, and stakeholders. Work with CDCR to assist their retention and recruitment efforts. Continue to fight closure.
  4. Prepare for industry – Assess infrastructure, plan for growth. Develop a network of industry contacts, explore opportunities for our region.
  5. Marketing – Clean City Campaign / Shop Local / Rec and Tourism / Safe Community to Live and Play”/ Special Events / Revamp city website
  6. Continue to develop EDIP with agency and stakeholder input. Engage “Focus Funnel” establish screening process for “Ideas”, develop projects and implement as resources allow. For example, Main Street Improvements, Barry Reservoir Improvements, etc.

Year 3 – Milestones

  1. Substantially litter free city
  2. Disseminate strategy for talent development and retention. Focus on education and skills training for local talent pool. Identify viable industry opportunities within our region.
  3. CCC center – Stabilize situation with facility, if closed as prison intuition, identify alternative uses.

Year 5 and beyond

Continue to Read, Reference, Modify and Implement (RRMI) EDIP. With consideration of the following:

  1. Enhanced public safety.
  2. Increased park amenities.
  3. More multi-modal pathways.
  4. Blight reduction.
  5. Others.