The County Voice

Just Another Day at the Office

If this sounds little self-serving, I apologize, but, CSAC is a pretty amazing place. And by that, I mean it is populated by people doing an amazing array of important work. Take last Wednesday, for example.

Senior Legislative Representative Karen Keene was in Tulare County participating in the second in a series of workshops on implementing the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. This landmark legislation represents a huge change for the way California decides who can drill wells, and how much they can pump out of them. Implementing the law requires cooperation among what can generously be called “competing stakeholder organizations.”

Karen has been helping set up these meetings and is attending them all to help foster collaboration. The law requires local ground water basins to agree on a plan. Doing it well is hugely important, because the implications of doing it poorly, or not at all, spell real problems for agriculture, the environment, the business climate and many other aspects of California life.

At the same time, CSAC’s Kiana Buss was part of a panel of experts on transportation issues, sponsored by the California Transportation Foundation. As the father of two daughters, I can tell you it was inspiring to see this young woman, sitting on a panel with three older men, discussing transportation infrastructure funding. She had a command of the topic, the facts, the numbers and the audience. And this too is an important issue.

The roads and bridges we all rely on have suffered from a severe lack of funding for many years. Deferred maintenance adds up into the billions of dollars. Waiting a few more years will only increase the costs. Kiana, our Housing, Land Use and Transportation Legislative Representative, is doing her part—and doing it well—to convince the decision makers now is the time to address it.

We also released a video last Wednesday about the Rim Fire and Tuolumne County’s response and recovery efforts. It was produced mainly by my colleague Michael Sweet. You can talk about hundreds of square miles of devastated forest, but seeing it on video really drives home the impact. Michael’s video tells the story of the fire, its impact on the economy and environment, and how Tuolumne County is working with a variety of partners to recover. This powerful video has already been reposted by and the National Association of County’s is interested in using it in some of their communication and lobbying efforts.

The boss was busy on Wednesday, too. CSAC Executive Director Matt Cate was participating on a panel on government innovation.  One of the programs Matt discussed is from Los Angeles County’s Child Support Services Department (CSSD). Their caseload is huge, the need is great, and too many parents were not paying the support they owe to their kids.

LA’s solution, and I am vastly oversimplifying it, was to reevaluate and reclassify all their cases to apply the right technique to each case. The father who can’t pay child support because he’s incarcerated needs a different approach than the one who just doesn’t want to pay. Under the new system, CSSD workers are having more impact. In one classification, paying parents have nearly tripled in less than a year. Matt helped highlight this program so that other counties might be able to learn from LA’s approach.

The point is, California Counties do some really good work and CSAC has some great people working to make sure the Governor, Legislature, the media and others know about it. I only mentioned a few of my colleagues here. The whole bunch is a pretty good group—smart, dedicated, professional, hardworking, and not just on Wednesdays.

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