Fund backed profile gives much-needed trends, data

September 16, 2008 11:00 pm

The Sonora Area Foundation's 2008 Tuolumne County Profile is detailed, informative, and, over the next three years, will prove extremely valuable to grant writers, planners, employers, government officials and anyone else interested in our community and its future.

But that's only half the story of the Community Indicators Project, in the works for more than five months and released earlier this month.

This 67-page profile, an update of a comprehensive county survey published in 2005, is more than a compilation of facts and figures. It's the the product of more than a thousand hours of work by volunteers from nearly all walks of life.

What's more, almost all of these volunteers were involved in the 2005 indicators project and returned for another round.

"The only ones who didn't come back were people who had moved away from the county," said Patricia Jones, the Jamestown-based consultant who coordinated the Indicators Project update. "This shows how interested people are and how much they believed in what we were doing."

Volunteering for this project amounted to a lot more than going to a meeting or two, giving yourself a pat on the back and returning to real life. Jones said committees met 48 times and members collectively put in more than 40 days of volunteer time. That amounts to better than 16 hours for each of the committee members, most of whom are already incredibly busy in some of Tuolumne County's highest-profile jobs.

County Profile committees were Health and Safety, Education and Learning, Natural Resources and Recreation, Economy and Infrastructure, and Arts and Heritage. Members include the county and city administrators, the county sheriff, Sonora's chief of police, the local California Highway Patrol commander, the county superintendent of schools, Columbia College's president, the Tuolumne Utilities District general manager, Black Oak Casino's manager, the county librarian, bankers, lawyers professors, county and city department heads and specialists in fields ranging from forestry and biology to housing and tourism.

Not only that, said Jones, but for every committee member two or three colleagues back at the office or department pitched in with information or perspective.

"Our mission was to provide valid, understandable and reproducible data, and I think we succeeded," said Jones.

Indeed, the 67-page report is a statistical cornucopia that supplies the readers with not only numbers, but graphs, charts and texts illustrating county trends and explaining their significance. The report's breadth alone is eye-opening: It includes flu shot rates, child car seat use, cancer deaths, health insurance coverage, crime and accident rates, kindergarten enrollment, SAT scores, reading habits, air quality, bird counts, kilowatt production, business sales, employment, tourist spending, land use, home prices, road conditions, broadband availability, funding for the arts and much more.

You could issue a new Tuolumne County edition of Trivial Pursuit based on the Sonora Area Foundation's Indicators Project. But far more importantly, its information will be used to back up grant applications, attract potential employees to the community and guide both government and business in where to best direct their efforts.

"It's been very well received," said Mick Grimes, the foundation's executive director. "And with the 2005 figures, we can see where we as a community are going."

The foundation funded $82,000 to produce the report — about $40,000 less than the original. But we can thank coordinator Jones and scores of hard-working volunteers for making it the real bargain it is.

(The Tuolumne County Profile is available free in both printed and CD versions at the Sonora Area Foundation's office, 20100 Cedar Road North, Sonora. It should also be available online today at