Stanislaus County Board of Supervisor Chairman Dick Monteith presented the State of the County Address 2011 at the Tuesday night Board Meeting on January 18, 2011.
Chairman Dick Monteith themed his speech around the title, “The Time to be Bold: the Time to Build.”
Monteith acknowledged the tough economic times and the downsizing of the Stanislaus County government due to budget reductions in line with the State of California’s disastrous budget situation.
While Stanislaus County has had to reduce their government organization’s workforce by 1,000 positions, or up to 25 percent, Monteith spoke to building a model government.
Potential restructuring of County departments and looking to build regional partnerships to provide more efficient services was mentioned in Monteith’s speech.
As the county government downsizes and tries to figure out how to become more self-sustainable government, Monteith called upon volunteerism to get through the tough times.
“We will need more members of the public and representatives of non-governmental organizations to step up into leadership roles that previously have been dominated by government personnel.”
In closing Monteith said, “In the middle of this storm, we are challenged to lead and we are challenged to look for opportunity, and so we will . . . together as a community and together as an organization.”
The transcript of Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Monteith’s 2011 State of the County Address is provided below.
Chairman Dick Monteith
Presented January 18, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen. Good evening. It’s a privilege to appear before you today to present the "State of the County" Address for the year 2011.
I would first like to say "thank you" to my colleagues on the Board, Supervisors O’Brien, Chiesa, Withrow and DeMartini, to Chief Executive Officer Rick Robinson and County Counsel Jack Doering, all of our County department heads, all of our County employees and to those who are here in the Chambers and to those watching on television or online. It’s good to see everyone here today.
Times are not the same in Stanislaus County; and times are not the same in our nation.
We have been struggling greatly as the economy has plunged, and all have been impacted as a result of this collapse.
People have lost jobs . . . homes . . . savings and retirements. In many cases, the effects have been devastating.
We are not at the end of our economic struggles. Actually, I believe there are many years to come. Recovery for our valley and for our County government will probably lag behind the nation as our valley has historically struggled economically.
This year will bring more downsizing to our County government. More positions will be lost; many friends and co-workers who have been with us, some for many, many years, will be faced with their position being eliminated. We will be saying more painful goodbyes.
We will endure this challenging time as a nation; and we will endure as a County.
And, through this time, a new season will begin.
We will clearly see that now, even in the eye of the storm, even as our local system of government is being forcibly contracted, now is the time to build.
Some might ask, "how in this time of recession and economic turmoil could we build?" The answer is simple.
We will now build on what we have and we will build to be sustainable and we will build to be better.
We will re-build our government.
Our County mission states — we will "serve the public interest by promoting public health, safety, welfare and the local economy in an efficient, cost-effective manner."
We now have to revisit how we can fulfill this mission.
Our challenge will be to build a County government system that still holds the phrase "Striving to be the Best" as our mission; however, we will build a County government system that looks very different than it has in the past.
By the end of this year, our County government will have downsized by more than a thousand positions – up to 25% of our positions gone and not returning. For employees who remain, we have been restructuring pay and benefits packages. We are using furloughs. We are dramatically cutting expenses. And, we have been one of the first, if not the first county in the State, to restructure our pension package for new employees. And while many of these changes are painful, the public demands, and our budget requires, we operate with a common sense approach that is responsible and realistic.
How we operate will have to be different.
We will need to re-establish what levels of service are provided to the public. We will need to re-invent how services are delivered. We will need to re-create how County departments interact with one another. And we will need to re-form how County government interacts with other branches of government.
Undoubtedly, the County will need to pare down the services offered to our residents. This is guaranteed to be unpopular. It is always difficult to give up something we have come to expect. The Board has been very up-front about how painful, it is to do this. We’ve made some very difficult and unpopular choices over the past few years, and we know there are more of these decisions to be made. However, we are at a place where reality must be faced head-on and we cannot run from tough decisions.
Almost every week, there are passionate people who come to the Board asking us to hold off on certain cuts or changes in how the County operates. They passionately represent their area of special interest and are doing all they can to protect that which they hold important. We fully expect more people to speak up as the changes become even more difficult. Those who speak up will be listened to with respect and civility.
And I would call on all County staff and all members of the public to engage with respect and civility and to treat others with the respect they would like to be afforded. This is a time when it often seems trendy to be angry and harshness has replaced honor. I challenge all of us to debate the issues with respect for one another, and to serve as an example of how our democracy should be.
We will need more members of the public and representatives of non-governmental organizations to step up into leadership roles that previously have been dominated by government personnel. The County will be closing and downsizing some programs. While these programs have been operated with the best intentions, they might no longer exist in the future because they are not a core service of County government. If the programs are worth sustaining, it might be these community individuals and organizations that become essential to delivering these services to the public.
Personal volunteerism is more important than ever to our community and to helping one another. Volunteerism not only helps those around us, but it can instill worth and purpose in our own lives. The County has many opportunities for individuals to volunteer their services and we encourage you to explore these opportunities at the County’s website, stancounty.com.
We also encourage you to reach out to community, civic, faith and non-profit organizations to offer your talents. As government funds continue to decline, volunteer efforts will be needed in all areas of our community.
We will continue to re-focus County resources on core services – those things the County is mandated and funded to do. Our local government will continue to shrink to a place that is sustainable into the future.
The Governor last week announced his proposed budget. In this budget are some things we don’t completely understand, yet – and there are some things that are very clear. What we know with certainty is this: State government is going to change radically and it’s long overdue. The Governor has admitted up to 85% of the budget solutions implemented by the State have been quick fixes of no lasting benefit. The State has kicked the can down the road for so long, they are now at the dead end, the back wall of the budget alley. The State has borrowed, swapped, taken and deferred themselves to the end of the line. The Governor realizes substantive change needs to occur.
Most often when State government changes, it negatively impacts the County. Many times decisions are made at the State where the true consequences are most severely felt locally. I believe we will see this happen, again. While not trying to sound cynical, I also know we need to be prudent and anticipate the local impacts of State decisions.
Releasing inmates from the State back to the County has an impact; shutting down our redevelopment agencies has an impact; eliminating enterprise zones has an impact; cutting funding for welfare programs has an impact; taking funds from the County to transfer to the State has an impact, and the list goes on.
Our County continues to struggle as a "negative bailout" County. We have diverted more than $60 million of Stanislaus County property tax money away from our budget as a result of Assembly Bill 8 — now, nearly $3 million a year leaving us. This inequity needs to be fixed at the State as part of the structural reform of government. Also, in one of the most economically challenged counties in California, and of the United States, we keep 40% less property tax than the State average. That means we have foregone more than $645 million dollars since 1980 as a result of the Prop 13 formula. While San Francisco keeps nearly sixty cents of every dollar of property tax, we retain ten cents of every dollar.
Trust me, we know that actions at the State-level will have local consequences. So we must build local government with the ability to sustain, adapt and move forward.
In the midst of this major re-building process of local government, all of our departments still have to conduct ongoing business. Roads need to be fixed, people need benefits checks, healthcare needs to be delivered, tax payments processed, elections conducted, properties assessed and the list goes on.
My hat goes off to our County employees who serve the residents of this County. This year they will be faced with the task of continuing to do more with less, scrambling to keep up with their day-to-day work assignments, and at the same time, re-building their department, and our entire organization, from the inside out.
We have some of the hardest working and most dedicated people I know working for Stanislaus County. This year could be the biggest test of most of our careers as we begin to build a new, sustainable organization.
Just as we will rebuild within our departments, we will also look outward to find ways to regionalize services.
Our Regional Fire Services project is a model for how branches of local government can come together and work more efficiently for the public benefit. We save taxpayer money by giving up control and being willing to build a new model that is sustainable. The change to fire services was an extremely difficult and complex process. And I applaud those who have led this for their leadership, vision and unrelenting passion. I recognize Chief Gary Hinshaw, Chief Mike Kraus and Chief Dale Skiles for their efforts. We know there will be bumps in the road ahead, but we are on the right road to travel.
The newly completed Animal Services facility is another example of how sharing control and sharing responsibility can benefit the public. This is a project many thought was not possible. This was a project fraught with challenge, and this was a project that could have failed. And yet, it didn’t. Through the leadership of our CEO Richard Robinson, we persevered and made it to the finish line. We have a new shelter with the five partner cities of Modesto, Ceres, Patterson, Hughson and Waterford where we share costs and work together for the greatest efficiencies.
And there are more projects like these to pursue. We are already exploring areas like our building department and planning services. We have begun meeting with the City of Modesto to explore opportunities for greater efficiencies and to eliminate duplication of services in these areas. And there could be broader opportunity here as well.
Projects like this don’t occur quickly or simply. The tentacles of government are far-reaching and they are many. What seems like simple change often can be quite complex because of laws, regulations, threat of litigation, turf battles, history and pride.
But, now is the time to be bold. It is the time to envision and create positive changes that will transform government.
Now is the time to lead; and we will lead with integrity, passion and a focus on the future.
And now is the time to build. It is the time to look for additional areas of collaboration, consolidation and compromise, and to form a model of government that is sustainable into the future.
And through it all, we will build on the foundation of our Board’s values – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. More than ever, these words need to infiltrate every part of who we are as Board members and every part of our organization.
In the middle of this storm, we are challenged to lead and we are challenged to look for opportunity, and so we will . . . together as a community and together as an organization.
And it will be, and it has to be . . . together.
God bless you and God bless Stanislaus County.