Chris Bateman, The Union Democrat

Eight years ago Tuolumne County Supervisor Dick Pland tried something new. The incoming board chairman listed his goals for the 12 months ahead.

It's a tradition that his successors have followed. Most board chairs have drafted to-do lists of items ranging from the absolutely essential to the unrealistically ideal.

"Getting things done in government is difficult," Pland reasoned in 2004. "But you have to try."

He was right, but the process lacked a key ingredient: follow up. As noble as they sounded each January, the goals were often forgotten in the rising and falling political tide of hot-button issues and conflicts du jour.

But this year that has changed. The 2008 goals were adopted by the entire board after debate, discussion and public comment. Since then, County Administrator Craig Pedro has given supervisors quarterly reports on progress in meeting each one of them.

On Jan. 6 the board will consider Pedro's year-end report on county progress toward meeting 24 goals adopted last February.

Supervisors did well: Of the 24 goals, nine were accomplished and progress was made toward reaching 10 others. "No progress" was reported on only five.

Among goals reached:

• Adoption of an inclusionary ordinance requiring developers to make a percentage of the homes they build affordable by low- and middle-income families.

• Approval of a soon-to-be hired housing coordinator to oversee the new inclusionary ordinance and otherwise provide for more affordable housing in Tuolumne County.

• Establishment of a new Economic Development Authority to promote business and commerce in the county.

• Adoption a new ordinance aimed at curbing illegal dumping.

• Approval of an agreement providing that Avalon Health Care build a 90- to 120-bed care home to replace Tuolumne General's long-term care unit, which will be closed.

• Adoption a funding plan for closure of the Jamestown landfill.

• Set rules banning premature removal of oak trees.

In addition, according to Pedro's report, supervisors have made progress in completing a draft environmental report on a multi-million dollar law and justice center proposed off Old Wards Ferry Road, in enhancing area broadband access in cooperation with the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency and in getting approval for a plan to sell road rock quarried at the county-owned Jamestown Mine site.

Having the county board buy into the goals and track progress, departing Chairman Pland said, "helped us stay focused."

"It gives is more structure and puts an emphasis on getting things accomplished," he added.

"It's been really good to be able to monitor thing as we go," said Supervisor Teri Murrison, who will take the gavel from Pland next month,

It also gives constituents a barometer with which to measure the performance of the county staff and their elected representatives.

Murrison will lead the board toward adoption of its 2009 goals. The list will no doubt include many from 2008, including a few - like strengthening the county's law enforcement, fire and first responder programs and increasing public access - on which no progress was reported this year. Murrison also wants to work on a "communication plan" aimed at giving constituents more access to county officials and information.

Given the budget and staff shortages, it's unrealistic to expect the county to reach all its 2009 goals.

But under the current system, we can comment on those goals before adoption and, throughout the year, can track progress made toward reaching them.