Editorial Comments for Aug. 5, 2011

By Union Democrat staff August 05, 2011 07:13 am

County realignment makes sense

    County and municipal governments throughout California and nationwide are consolidating services and departments following staff reductions. How best to re-organize and right-size government is always a challenge. Tuolumne County’s latest attempt in this arena is to combine the Community Development Department with Public Works. On Tuesday, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to create a new Community Resources Agency to encompass both departments. The new agency will be led by former CDD Director Bev Shane.
    CAO Craig Pedro estimates this will result in $300,000 in annual savings to the county budget.
    Some of the discussion leading up to the vote questioned whether this new mega-agency
could adapt and be responsive to the needs of a struggling business community during this troubling and protracted recession. Mark Banks, representing the Tuolumne County Building Industry Association, said: “We have to keep our eye on the ball here. We need job creation and we need to get our county back to work.”
    Supervisor Randy Hanvelt also expressed concerns about the new agency’s direction and accountability to the board, the public and the business community. Both Hanvelt and Supervisor Evan Royce questioned how the agency’s success could be measured. They also opposed any initial salary increase for Shane. Both voted against approval of the re-organization.
    Supervisor Dick Pland commented that there is a natural resistance to change, yet it’s important to make county government more efficient. He also said “Economic development is key to the success of the county” but it is the supervisors that must drive that effort and be responsible for it.
    This newspaper supports the re-alignment.  Bev Shane has a proven record of leadership, competence and ability. As an attorney and expert on land planning issues, she has demonstrated professionalism, integrity and fairness in her dealings with all who come before the county. She has already shown an ability to manage a large group of employees, with CDD having been the county’s largest department. Public Works adds 60 employees to the newly formed CRA.
    Shane says she welcomes “taking on another challenge.” That time has arrived.

Wildlife specialist back to full-time

    There are quiet heroes in every community. Individuals who possess a great work ethic; who exhibit skills, knowledge and experience that few others can match. These are people upon whom others depend upon to assist them in a time of need.
    Ron Anderson is one of our local heroes. In a hearing at the Tuolumne Board of Supervisors, the ag and ranching community spoke of his importance to their livelihood.
    Anderson is a predator control specialist who works for the USDA. Yet two-thirds of his salary is paid for by Tuolumne County. In the most recent county budget cutting — his hours were reduced by half.
    Brandishing a petition signed by 418 residents, a dozen supporters of Anderson spoke eloquently about his skills as a first responder to nuisance animal complaints. They shared stories and gave examples of his ability to track and trap major predators like mountain lions, bears and coyotes. They noted his 24/7 mentality — his willingness to drive out to a ranch in the middle of the night during calving season — when Coyotes are stalking the newborn calves. Clearly a reduction in Anderson’s hours would mean more livestock taken by predators — with substantial economic consequences to their enterprises.
    As the session came to a close, the accolades for Anderson rivaled those of wilderness legends Kit Carson and Davey Crockett. The supervisors wisely agreed to find the funds to fully restore this important position. The power of the people — and common sense — prevailed once again.