Those paying close attention to the work of the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors might notice a trend taking shape.
Supervisors have been asked increasingly to get on board with projects and initiatives not currently in the county budget.
Many, if not all, of these proposals are worthy endeavors. So Supervisors Jay Wickham and Dave Baker tend to want to lend the county’s support.
Ann McDonough, the newest member of the board, has begun to repeat what is starting to sound like a mantra. It goes something like this: “While this idea has merit, I believe the county first needs to set a strategic plan and hold up each proposal to see whether it fits with the county’s objectives.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because when McDonough was running for the seat last year, she said repeatedly that creating a strategic plan was key to guiding county spending.
It was a good idea then — and probably a reason voters strongly supported her in the primary and general elections — and it’s a good idea now.
Just in the past several weeks, county supervisors have been asked to:
- Kick in $50,000 for a “minimum revenue guarantee” to entice United Airlines to add flights into Dubuque.
- Purchase Roosevelt Park from the city in order to renovate it and add new recreational opportunities.
- Lend support to creating a local center for the treatment of mental illnesses and substance abuse issues.
- Upgrade the county courthouse and Old Jail to add off-street parking for handicapped residents and improve the aesthetics of the property.
- Support a county-wide needle exchange program.
And that’s just what has come up lately.
McDonough is doing as an elected official exactly what she said she would do as a candidate. She’s asking tough questions, challenging the status quo and pushing for more strategic planning and decision-making by supervisors.
Look at nearly any company in the private sector and its leaders will tell you that strategic planning provides a framework for direction.
As director of the region’s Iowa Small Business Development Center, Wickham surely knows the value and process of strategic thinking and could help lead the county toward a more business-like approach to spending.
Virtually all of the requests coming before the supervisors have value, and the county should be a player in some of these big-picture things for the area, such as addressing mental health issues, the opioid epidemic and air service. By hammering out a strategic plan — with input from citizens — and prioritizing the county’s biggest objectives, it will become much easier to make consistent and reasoned decisions on how to spend taxpayer dollars.