From JIM HOULE
The County teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, yet our Board of Supervisors approaches serious budget cut-backs as if they were virgins considering a serious affair: they flirt with cost cutting notions, they talk these ideas into confusion, and then put off a decision for six months, knowing full well that our local economy is not likely to have some wonderful rebirth in the next year unless the price of pot miraculously soars like a phoenix to $10,000 a pound.
A few examples: At today’s Board of Virgins’ meeting (Dec 15), John McCowen moved to eliminate our two lobbyists in Washington. Dave Colfax, while admitting that the idea had merit, was concerned that McCowen had not been specific about what it was the lobbyists had failed to do in Washington. Supervisor Smith admitted that it was hard to measure their actual performance. McCowen’s motion was defeated 3 to 2. The Supes agreed to think about it again in six months. Next, an apparently sponsor-less proposal to increase the Clerk of the Board’s salary by 35% was removed from the Consent Calendar for further review. The Clerk had already promised to take voluntary time off for, oh yes – the next six months – to avoid overrunning her budget. While the clerk’s supervisor, CEO Mitchell, had placed this item on the Consent Calendar without making the requisite recommendation, he wiggled around quite nicely by saying that her current salary was “in line” with other counties.
We have many county employees that have been voluntarily working less than full time for six months or more to save the county money. If the county hasn’t yet collapsed due to work left undone during this time, then should we conclude that the county government was really over staffed? (I won’t hold my breath waiting for an answer – as to whether it has indeed collapsed – from Tom Mitchell.) I repeat an idea discussed during the campaigns of Dolly Brown and Paula Dieter in 2008: Namely – to reduce all salaries to a maximum of $85,000 until the economy recovers. This is double the median income level for a family of four and should not cause impoverishment. Another cost reduction suggestion, now current: that the Sheriff’s staff be cut by 4 or 5 deputies should not even by considered. They are working at the same staffing level they had 30 years ago! We cannot afford any less protection from the drunks, the druggies, the zombies, and the criminals in our towns, on our highways and working our pot gardens.