SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
RESPONSE TO GRAND JURY
Management of County Government
Strategic planning, goals, objectives, broad overall policy, mission statements they all sound wonderful. Everyone should have them. The trick is how to inject them into the daily work; how to apply them to consistently declining resources and increasing demands for services; how to make them work in crisis situations when State and Federal governments take away resources but not the mandate to provide services; how to make them more than just words.
The Board of Supervisors put a tremendous effort into the 1990 Transformation Study. It cost a lot of money and ate up a lot of time. We have Article X, and a very detailed job description of the County Administrator's position. The words, mandates, missions, goals and programs are all there. I agree with the Grand Jury that we need to do a better job of using them, updating them, and creating a yearly goals program for the Board.
However, what will be the result of this exercise? What will change? Reading the Grand Jury report would have you believe the County is rudderless, ineffective, and non-functioning and that is simply not true. The bottom line is service. Are the taxpayers and the public receiving what they pay for? Do our departments continue to do their mandated functions and respond to emergency situations in spite of continued erosion of resources to perform their jobs? The response from me is a resounding YES. My office receives few complaints from citizens on service levels. In spite of being completely overrun by our ever increasing caseloads, Mental Health, Health Care Services, Probation, Social Services and all service departments do their job. The Board of Supervisor's meetings are not under siege by any community groups or advocates. The services are being provided and when there are problems or gaps, they are getting addressed by the combined efforts of the Board of Supervisors, the County Administrator, and Department Heads. In spite of massive shifts and reductions in our funding from State and Federal sources, we have continued to find a way to maintain our parks, libraries, human services and other quality of life needs, better than many Counties. Our regulatory departments have all responded to the mandate from the Board to become more user friendly and more accessible. Business assistance programs are available in all of these departments and we have an active County level Business Assistance Team.
I agree with the Grand Jury on the necessity for the Board to revisit the Transformation Program annually. The County Administrator must have annual evaluations and updated goals and objectives. Each department head has been instructed to submit their Mission Statements to a centralized source. Each Department Head needs to be evaluated by the County Administrator and the Board annually with updates of mutually agreed upon goals and objectives for the coming year as part of this evaluation.
I agree with the Grand Jury's recommendation that we further define the function of the County Administrator and his office. Currently, under the "rule of one" the County Administrator does choose department heads. I support having a public discussion on whether he should. be given the authority for their dismissal. Practically speaking, it is unlikely that a County Administrator would fire a department head without concurrence of the Board majority, but I believe this would create a better organizational structure and line of authority.
I also agree with the Grand Jury that the Administrative office must be given the resources to properly manage the County. The Transformation Study recommended three Deputy Director positions, each of whom would oversee one-third of the County departments This would free up the County Administrator from the day to day crises and allow him more time for overall management, coordinating with Supervisors, and Community interaction. For various reasons, political and financial, this physical strengthening of the County Administrator's office never occurred. It is definitely time to revisit this issue starting at budget hearings.
Even if we can find the resources to strengthen the County Administrator's office and augment his authority over Department heads, I believe it is impossible for Supervisors and their staffs to not work directly with Departments The County is too big and too diverse for us to be able to respond to all of our constituent complaints and requests by going through the Administration Office. That excessive centralization will create an unwieldy bureaucratic nightmare. There is a definite difference between serving our constituents and "micro managing" our departments. There has been a tendency in these contacts to overlap into the area of policy, but without much greater resources in the Administrative Office this is inevitable.
In conclusion, I believe the citizens of Santa Barbara County continue to be well served considering these very difficult financial times. We read daily of the difficulties occurring in Counties all over the State. The '94-'95 Grand Jury has made a great many suggestions for improvements in County Government and most of them cost money - millions of dollars. I would challenge the Jury members to attend our budget hearings next month and let us know what budget cuts to make, what services to cut, how many staff to lay off, in order to fund their suggestions. It's a whole lot easier to recommend costly changes than it is to finance them.