By Hank de Carbonel
I grew up in Berkeley and we had the traditional City Council, locals, real estate, insurance, teachers etc. Many had been in office for quite some time. I of course being young and knowing everything believed we should replace them with new faces. When the time came I voted for the “coalition” members, that’s another thing I didn’t actually know about, coalitions.
As soon as the new faces got a chance they promoted citywide candidates rather than districts. It had the effect of loss of peoples input from the districts and gave power to those with organizing skills and an agenda. That is when Berkeley began to go terribly wrong. The same thing happened in San Francisco, when you lose the smaller or local control the citizen power is diminished.
I see it in most State agencies, CARB, DMV, and now Water is headed to become the next CARB. What happens is a loss of citizen control and oversight. The PARTY then has all say and we get three minutes to give the appearance of citizen input or outreach. The districts, boards, agencies have already spent for studies and reports to support their schemes. And of course the staff supports the plan, and often the staff and employees live outside the jurisdiction and are unaffected by the policies and results.
I agree that combining smaller districts should result in better use of available moneys and a reduction in staff and duplication. The trade off is lack of control or input by those who are the ratepayers. My house was in the Arcade water district, no meters and my original bill was $5.00 per month! Eventually it got to $15.00, and the staff drove 15 year old Ford pickups that were baked to a light blue, the office was a converted house on Eastern. Then others decided for efficiency and better service we had to combine into Sacramento Suburban Water District. Then came the fact finding trips to Rio and all around the USA, now they have late model vans and pick ups, and a fancy office. Every so often another unfortunate expenditure is discovered and of course our rates became sky high.
I wish we could have consolidation but until we can be sure of local participation by those under the rule making and policies I don’t think it is a good exchange.
When I rule the world we would contract out almost all the services by these agencies to private sector, maintenance, service, payroll and billing, etc. Probably on a two or three year bidding process. As was pointed out in a recent SacTax monthly meeting, if the government can’t lock a bathroom then why give them anything but very minimal authority, with real consequences for their actions.