This is a reprint of an article from my friend Supervisor Janice Rutherford of San Bernardino County. If we can start with the concept she has laid out in this article, it will be a good beginning to stop corruption in San Bernardino County.
How do we make sure the days of political meddling and the self-serving use of tax dollars are over in San Bernardino County? The Board of Supervisors must lead the way in changing the way we do business, set appropriate expectations for county government and shift gears from politics to policy.Our role as supervisors is not to build political capital by doling out tax dollars to special events and pet projects, nor is it to micromanage county employees to ensure that our districts’ priorities are placed first in line, nor is it to feather our own nests by having an entourage of staff.Our charge is to provide leadership and direction on policy and budget issues so that management can implement our directives and goals throughout this massive and complex organization. Doing otherwise leaves county employees with conflicting directions that perpetuate the notion that some people can “pay to play.”Cutting the board’s $2.25 million annual discretionary fund is one step toward changing the way supervisors do business. While these tax dollars have supported some positive community programs and projects, they have also been used to build political empires, and have stood in the way of the board working together to meet the county’s core responsibilities.These expenditures have happened during an incredible economic boom and some worthy organizations have even become dependent upon them, but supervisors squandered the prosperity and now, for example, we do not have a modern emergency communications system, an adequate property tax assessment computer program, or even a certified electronic voting process.The board should work to cut the fund and implement a policy that prohibits supervisors from using county funds to promote themselves and build political legacies.The practice of using discretionary funds to hire board staff also must end. Supervisors need aides to respond to constituent inquires, research policy issues, and serve as liaisons to the communities we represent, but in light of these difficult budget times, the board must set the example by reducing staffing and working to do more with less.As the 2009-10 Grand Jury pointed out, Board of Supervisors staffing increased 63 percent since 2004 while our county population only grew by 5 percent during the same period. This dramatic staffing increase can’t be justified, and it is time to reign in staffing and to be more transparent about the cost of our employees by making their benefits packages as well as their salaries readily available to the public.
Additionally, board staff should have regular performance evaluations, and should be banned from being paid to do political work for any county elected official. Board staff members should be focused on serving constituents and the county, not on organizing their supervisor’s next fundraiser.
Shifting the Board of Supervisors away from politics and focusing on policy will take time and much more than these changes alone. We still need to tackle ethics reform, seek out new ways to engage the community and improve our transparency. All of these changes will work together to strengthen our county’s productivity and prosperity and restore the public’s confidence in their elected representatives.
Supervisor Janice Rutherford represents the 2nd District, which includes the cities of Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga and Upland, as well as the unincorporated communities of Crestline, San Antonio Heights, Lytle Creek, Devore and Mt. Baldy.
I hope this will start something big. If we do not have a certified electronic voting process how do we know our vote was counted? —-Paul Schrader