Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

Commentary by Samuel Strait – September 21, 2022

There is an old saying, that “if you depend on the government to solve
all your problems, at some point it will come back to bite you.”  So it
is with the County’s Measure “R” sales tax increase of one percent,
where local residents have been asked to pony up an additional one cent
on the dollar of nearly every thing they buy locally for what?  No doubt
everyone has heard the growing wails of a desperate County government
lamenting on the possibility of the loss of that funding should Measure
“U” pass in November, repealing the County’s slush fund of nearly $2
million for years to come.

So what has the County, who promised additional funding for police, fire
and emergency services done with the money?  Promised road repair and
deferred maintenance on County infrastructure. Said numerous times “No
money for salaries and benefits”.  Well, it looks like the County has
reneged on the primary selling point of Measure “R” by going on a
veritable shopping spree of new hires, many of which have nothing to do
with police, fire, and emergency services.  All of which encumber the
local population for years to come should this slush fund remain.

The Sheriff has hired more inexperienced deputies and continues to wall
paper around the fact that nothing has been accomplished in a year and a
half to solve the department’s many issues.  The jail remains an issue. 
Lack of experienced deputy’s remain an issue.  And now the Board of
Supervisors have saddled the Sheriff with yet another of the County’s
dysfunctional departments, Animal Control.  Token amounts have graced
the County’s many volunteer fire departments with no visible upgrades in
service.  And finally “emergency services”, one of the County’s least
employed departments, has been graced with three new employees for that
once every decade major crisis, that comes along.  There has to be a
better way.

So Del Norte County now has several new animal control officers,
planning has a new planner, code enforcement has a new code enforcement
officer, and the County has a new grant writer. Apparently no one has
clued the County into the fact that more employees to handle the same
tasks very rarely lead to better performance.  And how is it that these
employees now are considered “safety” employees and “vital” to the
health and welfare of the County’s residents to be funded by Measure “R”?

In 2010 the County had about $98 million to spend on all the County’s
services.  At that point in time most of the complaints about County
services were identical to that we currently face. Until the recent
explosion in hiring by the County at the beginning of 2022, the number
of employees had only grown by about twenty new positions.  The County’s
budget, on the other hand, in just twelve years has ballooned to $182
million for the 2022-2023 year.  One would think with that kind of
increase in funding that the County receives all would be well in
government land.  Not so!

It should be crystal clear by now that the funding from Measure “R” has
been used primarily to increase salaries County wide with no visible
improvements, in fact, the services provided by the County have
noticeably declined since 2010 and show no signs of improvement in the
future.  Hiring more employees to accomplish the basic necessities of
government services serves only to create more inefficiency and
encumbers the local population with additional ongoing expense solving
nothing.

Notice there is no reference to road repair or deferred maintenance
which was of most concern for those that voted to approve the increased
funding.  That is because for all intents and purposes the charade
currently being displayed by the County of less than priority repairs to
roads and maintenance that are highly visible show that they clearly do
not intend to be serious about that demand by the public.  There will be
no attention paid to this part of the contract with the public, and
there never was any serious inclination to do so.  With the hiring of
new “vital” safety employees through out County government and increases
for all County employees as a result of the Measure “R” funding. there
will literally be no money to repair roads and fix County maintenance
projects.

When times are tough and the cost of living for local residents has
escalated sharply upward, one would think that local government would
voluntarily reduce their burden to the people that they serve.  Not so
in Del Norte County  where current leadership has embarked on a path of
making things much worse for those they are meant to benefit.  Measure
“R” is a stark example of tone deaf leadership in the County and should
have never been placed before local voters in the first place.  As much
as local bureaucrats moan about the loss of this funding, it would be a
real measure of leadership for this local tax to be rescinded prior to
November.  Unfortunately we do not have real leadership in the County. 
Vote “YES” on Measure “U” in November and make the bite less painful.

One thought on “Measure “R” Will Come Back To Bite You”
  1. You probably know this, but County employees that are designated as “safety” employees in CA are also eligible for a lower retirement age and a higher pension contribution. The designation is usually reserved for law enforcement, due to the rigors of the job. So it feels like the County is purposefully mis-labelling these positions and giving them a special privilege in addition to throwing good money after bad. I’d be curious who’s getting hired for those jobs and whether their last names match up with any of the County higher-ups. Something doesn’t smell right.

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