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City hopes to make acronyms easier to decipher with guidebook

POSTED June 19, 2012 8:32 p.m.

Every developer knows that an EIR is required, pursuant to CEQA, to approve a CUP. Unless you can get away with a MND, of course.

But that alphabet soup of acronyms is nearly incomprehensible to everyone else.

Enter the City of Turlock with a simple idea to make those acronyms a bit less confusing – an acronym handbook, explaining what those myriad abbreviations actually stand for.

The document was requested by at least one city council member, according to Maryn Pitt, Turlock Housing Program Services manager and current assistant to the city manager. But in developing the handbook, Pitt said, the city has realized just how puzzling those “everyday” acronyms can be to non-professionals.

“We try really hard in our staff reports to outline what the acronym means, but sometimes we get caught in bureaucratic speech and forget,” Pitt said.

Those shorthand acronyms make life easier for professionals in a field – saying “California Environmental Quality Act” takes much longer than “CEQA” (pronounced Sea-qua, as one word), for example.

But they can also cause confusion among the public. Even between city departments, acronyms can mean entirely different things – in public safety, the term FOG refers to a field operations guide; in wastewater treatment, it refers to fats, oil and grease.

Pitt said the handbook will be a resource for the community, helping to encourage public involvement. And the list will help council members and commissioners get up to speed more quickly.

After a few tweaks to the document, the acronym handbook will be made available at Turlock City Hall, and online at turlock.ca.us in the weeks to come.

But the acronym handbook will never truly be complete, as the tangled world of government develops more and more TLAs – three letter acronyms, of course – all the time.

“Every day, with the demise of RDAs (redevelopment agencies) now, there’s a whole new set of acronyms,” Pitt said. “They just keep springing up.”

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