Tom Urbanske

The Grand Jury was correct. Santa Barbara County Government needs to become more focused, more user friendly, and more efficient. The Board of Supervisors must establish performance objectives and give the county administrative officer more authority to accomplish those objectives. However, we must also recognize the limitations placed upon us by the legal structure and traditions of county government.

In general, I agree with most of the Grand Jury recommendations that apply to the Board of Supervisors. There is much work for the Board to do, but the timelines in the report are too short.

Before establishing performance objectives, the Board of Supervisors must develop consensus on desired outcomes. Some of this has already begun. Examples can be noted where the Board of Supervisors has initiated or completed development of outcomes. The Social Services outcome is to get people off welfare through self suf ficiency programs. The outcome for Mental Health for children is to keep families together with increased coping skills through collaborative case management. The criminal justice outcome is to reduce crime and incarceration through programs like the Drug Court and DARE. The economic development outcome is to provide more high paying jobs. This can be accomplished by creating a better business climate through permit and regulatory streamlining and reaching out to the business community for advice and help.

In some of these examples, there is almost complete consensus. On the others, there is still some disagreement.

So the first caution is that the Board of Supervisors has to give solid direction before demanding results from a strengthened county administrative officer.

The second caution is to beware of developing a complex plan that appears to be a magic solution. Too often these complex plans, complete with the latest buzzwords, become paper tigers. Paper tigers are expensive. Worse yet, they lead to complacency -- promising solutions that only people can deliver.

The third caution is to beware of trying to do too much. Santa Barbara County has to downsize and reduce employee remuneration. It has long-term financial liabilities: unfunded vacations, a north county jail requirement, multi-million dollar backlogs in road maintenance and flood control, and state and federal governments poised to further cut revenue streams.

In light of these cautions, it is incongruent to place so much blame on the administrative officer for watching the budget so carefully and for not fulfilling the mandates of an overly complex plan resulting from the Transformation Study while downsizing his own office. It is imperative that the Board of Supervisors come to an agreement on a change in direction of county government, give the administrative officer more explicit policy direction, authority and resources to implement that policy and then hold him accountable.