Four elected department heads are facing challengers in the June 3 primary and four are unopposed. However the election turns out, one thing remains constant for us. Elected department heads remain more responsive to the public, do a better job of adhering to their budgets and are leaders in innovation.
For budgeting we particularly cite Sheriff John D’Agostini, who has turned back millions to the county coffers by reining in overtime and more carefully managing his department.
For innovation we cite Recorder-Clerk-Veterans Affairs Officer Bill Schultz who has created a discount ID card for local veterans. This includes a highly portable digital, laptop computer and printer. Veterans who already have their DD 214s in the county system can get their cards on the spot. These aren’t DMV-type photos. A forward facing monitor lets the veteran see how he looks before the card is printed. The whole operation will be traveling to different locations, operated by a veterans affairs liaison officer. Call the county veterans office for more information.
For non-innovation we cite the new “Respectful Workplace” policy, a thick document that adds another layer of strange bureaucracy to county employment. This one comes with a $140,000 survey of current and past employee attitudes about their bosses and various levels of supervision within each department. How many winter potholes could be filled with $140,000 from the General Fund?
Public, and county employees in particular, are some of the most protected class of employees anywhere. They are represented by a union that will tackle any grievance and they are protected by civil service rules and a civil service commission. This latest scheme is just an invitation for lawsuits from a steady minority of employees who don’t like working in the first place.
Every department has a few employees who are unhappy for one reason or another, such as not being chosen for a promotion. Here, the difference will be that Respectful Workplace complaints about appointed department heads will be aired in closed session, but complaints about elected officials will be aired in public session.
And past employees? This county laid off a lot of employees during the recession. That will be a lot of folks unhappy about their experience as county employees. This is an inane scheme that will further stifle innovation in making county government better serve the public. This is more inside baseball and it doesn’t even qualify as zen baseball.