Voice: Former supervisor urges keeping of weekly meetings

February 25, 2001

I have been keeping abreast of the proposal by new county Executive Officer Ann Capela to revamp the Board of Supervisors meeting schedule from once per week to twice per month, remove the chairman's Monday committee meetings and replace them with twice per month Monday meetings consisting of the full board.

I would hope the board would not make any decision until the three new members (the majority of the board) and the new CEO have had adequate time to evaluate the procedure in place for many years that has served the board, the departments and the public (voters) well. I would recommend one year before any consideration of change is made, even a trial period.

Ms. Capela came from Walworth County, Wisc., with a total budget of about half of Imperial County's annual budget of almost $200 million and about half the population of Imperial County. Wisconsin has a different county governing structure than California. The Walworth County Board of Supervisors consists of 35 part-time members, seven elected executive officers and an administrative coordinator (the position Ms. Capela held). Walworth County has an elected judiciary. California's 58 counties (except for San Francisco County) have a governing structure of five elected members on a Board of Supervisors (full-time for Imperial County). Other elected officials include the district attorney, sheriff, auditor-controller, assessor, treasurer-tax collector, county clerk-recorder and the judiciary. The supervisors, sheriff, district attorney, assessor and judiciary are the only positions required to be filled by election. The others are optional by each county and may be appointed by the supervisors after approval of the electorate.


What may be appropriate and acceptable in Walworth County may not be in Imperial County. Imperial County consists of over 4,500 square miles, the same size as San Diego County, and a budding population of over 150,000.

We have issues most counties in California and the rest of the nation do not have such as illegal immigration and a drug corridor, high unemployment, low per-capita income, desert closures, the transfer of our water to San Diego County and the cleanup of the Salton Sea and the New and Alamo rivers. We have emerging economic development projects, including the Gateway of the Americas, dairy attraction and the business incubator. We have ongoing litigation that has caused the stoppage of the planned and permitted Arid Landfill as well as budget and meet and confer issues, all in need of the Board of Supervisors acting in a timely manner.

While I seldom agree with the Imperial Valley Press' editorials, they grasped the situation well in their Feb. 13 editorial. I also agree with those who testified before the board at the Feb. 13 meeting in opposition to the reduction of board meetings, in particular the testimony of Mr. Tom DuBose of Development Design & Engineering and District Attorney Gilbert Otero.

I am well aware your jobs are full-time. That should be reflected in the public's access to the full board, to have their concerns and issues addressed in public in a timely manner. If the public perception is that you are part-time supervisors, the public could demand by referendum the salaries of the supervisors be reduced, and any increases be ratified by the voters. There is the old adage, "Perception is everything; fact means nothing."

I would urge Ms. Capela and the board to rethink this issue. If you do go forward, please hold public hearings before any action is taken. I also would urge you to be careful how much of your responsibility and authority you delegate to the CEO.



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