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Another View: County forum successfully focused on importance of suburbs

The sixth annual State of Sacramento County, hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber, sponsored by Sacramento County and focused on the suburbs, was a huge success by any standard except that of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board.

The forum was sold out; attended by nearly 300 business, government and civic leaders and elected officials from across the six-county region; highlighted research-based findings about an issue of interest within the county from a globally recognized expert; and inserted some humor along the way.

Our tradition at the State of the County forum is to highlight issues of regional importance. In past years, we’ve covered flood protection, transportation and infrastructure investments such as our international airport. This year, we took the opportunity to bookend our other programs on regional topics such as agriculture and the downtown revitalization through the sports and entertainment arena deal.

We decided to present the important role that suburbs play in the overall economy of our region. With the exciting news in recent months about keeping the Kings in Sacramento, the city winning the bids for the U.S. Track and Field Championships, and the return of the Amgen Tour, much of the focus has been on the impact of these achievements to downtown Sacramento and its immediate surroundings.

Hence, the timing was right to provide a platform for a presentation of our suburban reality: three times as many people live in the suburbs than in the core city; the change in population between the core and suburbs over the past 10 years has more than quadrupled, with the shift favoring suburban residency; and more than 40 percent of millennials call suburbs the “ideal” place to live, nearly 10 percent greater than the closest age category.

These facts were shared by Joel Kotkin, a recognized expert in the field of suburban trends and the global history of the city, with additional information about California’s decline in manufacturing and STEM occupation jobs, the decline in state jobs and the migration into Sacramento from other national cities.

The event was principally an opportunity to hear from one of the nation’s go-to experts about how our region stacks up both against the nation and our own core. Sacramento County is experiencing challenges just like the urban core. We’re dealing with aging infrastructure and changing demographics. But they are vibrant centers for businesses and families, and the forum brought a fine point to the role suburbs play in our continued economic recovery.

Contrary to The Bee’s editorial (“Was your tax money wisely used for this?” Nov. 16), the event was purposefully designed to focus solely on the suburbs and never envisioned to be a dialogue about every geographic residential option we are fortunate to have in this region. That intention was reinforced by our opening remarks, if not the event’s name itself.

To suggest that the Metro Chamber discredited the region’s Blueprint through our forum is folly. We fully support the Blueprint, particularly the tenets that allow residents to have virtually any kind of living experience they desire – small city, urban core, suburban, open space – and still be within approximately 30 minutes of one of three regional job centers.

This makes us unique within California, if not the nation, and is one of the reasons businesses, employees, families and young professionals choose this the region. Our forum focused on just one of the options available, albeit the most popular.

If the editorial board came into the event believing they were hoodwinked – and more important, took away from it the opinion that it was “appalling” – perhaps it approached the event with a preconceived notion of the event’s focus, a misguided understanding of its purpose, a predetermined conclusion, or simply didn’t appreciate that the keynote speaker’s views differ from those of the editorial board. The comments we have received have been in stark contrast to the editorial’s description of the forum.