The City Council wants to look at new ways of making Modesto safer, create incentives to attract commercial and industrial development and work closer with school districts to help kids grow up right.
Those were among the top items that came out of a council workshop Friday on updating the city's strategic plan, which serves as a blueprint for how the city focuses its time, money and resources.
Council members also gave top billing to some familiar issues, such as cracking down on gangs and keeping kids from joining them, improving neighborhoods and continuing to look at annexing Salida, the unincorporated community of about 13,700 residents north of Modesto along Highway 99.
City officials say annexing Salida is crucial for economic development because it provides land along Highway 99 suited for distribution centers and other commercial uses. It's also ideal because of its proximity to the North County Corridor, a proposed expressway from Highway 99 to east of Oakdale.
But council members also chose Friday the need to create an alternative economic development plan if Salida is not annexed.
Though council members talked about specifics in achieving their goals, such as providing private security patrols in neighborhoods, the workshop was meant for the council to provide staff with a broad brush.
Staff will refine the picture with proposals to achieve the goals and bring that back to the council for approval. The public will have a chance to weigh in on the strategic plan at an April 18 community forum.
Council members raised a variety of points. For instance, Dave Geer an Army veteran and retired Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory police officer said schools should consider having some teachers and administrators carry concealed weapons because the police no longer can provide officers at every campus.
One idea that did not get a lot of discussion was Mayor Garrad Marsh's proposal for a temporary public-safety tax to hire more police officers, firefighters and community service officers and for other new public-safety initiatives.
Modesto has reduced the number of police officers, firefighters and community service officers by nearly 100 in the past few years because of recession-driven budget cuts. Though city finances have stabilized, no one is expecting a quick rebound. Police Chief Galen Carroll and Fire Chief Gary Hinshaw said their departments are stretched thin.
Marsh said it will take additional money for the city to embark on efforts to improve public safety.
"I know taxes are not something that is especially easy to sell," he said. " But clearly, we need to increase (public-safety) staffing."
The strategic plan update will replace the plan the council adopted in 2010.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.