Local governments need to improve their creativity and become more visionary because of the recession hitting Orange County, developer Kathryn Thompson told a group of government officials Wednesday
Thompson, chairwoman of Thompson Development Co. and a Republican who broke ranks to support the election of President Bill Clinton, said business people think far ahead, such as the year 2010, to guarantee success. She challenged government officials to do the same.
"Ask yourself what changes will we have by then. Then, ask, what would you have done in 1993 to better adapt to those changes," Thompson advised a Cal State Fullerton conference of about 200 officials, including 14 Orange County city managers.
"New Realities for Local Government in the 1990s" was the title of the event.
Thompson suggested creation of enterprise zones, and more public-private projects where inner-city residents can receive job training while helping to rehabilitate buildings.
Thompson made headlines during the presidential campaign when she backed Clinton and helped him gain a foothold in Orange County. But now, Thompson said, "we must forget about (political) labels" to help in the county's recovery.
The daylong conference was sponsored by the American Society for Public Administration, Orange County Management Forum, and the university's Political Science Students Assn. It featured workshops on population trends, job loss issues and job creation.
Lou Scarpino, a county budget executive who helped organize the conference, said tough times call for new ideas.
"We need a lot of restructuring here. These are not good times to be in government with all the spending cuts," Scarpino said.
Bob Wilson, manager of the county's Forecast and Analysis Center, concentrated on the county's changing demographics.
Because the county's average age among nonwhites is younger than it is for whites, education and entry-level jobs are critical, Wilson said.
"We heard that most of these (minority) students have to work and go to school to help with living expenses. Families of these minority students are not in a place where they can help them stay in school any longer and scholarships must be found," Wilson said.
Thompson and Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Harriett M. Wieder, who also attended, said politicians, business leaders and others may have to "throw caution to the wind" and create new strategies.
Thompson, who attended Clinton's economic summit in Little Rock, Ark., said "the go-go '80s" of former President Ronald Reagan are over.
"We have had it so good so long, that we have a much greater fear about the future," Thompson said. "We have lost sight of our potential."
Orange County's Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino, who is facing a $93-million budget shortfall, summed up the conference saying, "We can't wait for Sacramento and Washington to help us. We have to be proactive on this."