Great Moments In Public Deliberation

by Mark Scaramella, March 25, 2011

Date: March 15, 2011.

Location: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Meeting, Ukiah.

Subject: The Mendocino County Museum’s declining budget.

* * *

Board Chair Kendall Smith: Well, I believe—

Supervisor John McCowen: Madam Chair.

Smith: Yes.

McCowen: [Points at his yellow marker, the signal Board members use to politely ask that they be recognized for a comment.] I’ve been waiting to be recognized—

Smith: When—?

McCowen: All of my colleagues have spoken.

Smith: Well, I have not spoken yet. Um, Supervisor Brown has. Uh—

McCowen: Where’s your marker?

Smith: Uh, you… (Laughs) Supervisor, you’re the one that began this discussion, so you’ve spoken on this already, is that correct?

McCowen: Yes, I have, but I have also…

Smith: OK! Ok!

McCowen: But I have also raised my marker since then and you’ve called on other people, who…

Smith: They’ve each only spoken once, Supervisor.

Supervisor John Pinches: It’s called the perogative [sic] of the Chair.

Smith: It’s that each has spoken once! No one is avoiding you!

McCowen: Go on as you wish, Madam Chair.

Smith: It’s not…! Each person has spoken once. That’s once, once, once, once (pointing at the other supervisors).

McCowen: Madam Chair! Would you please proceed?

Smith: OK. So Supervisor Brown, what would you, would you… (Back to McCowen) You put your marker down, I watched you. So Supervisor Brown, what would you…? (Back to McCowen): You had just said… You put your marker down (gestures as if to put something down). I watched you. I turned over there and you put it back up. You…

McCowen: Obviously, we’re having a discussion that’s not on the agenda at this point. It would be better to have a discussion that is agendized.

Smith: I agree. But all…

McCowen: It’s just that everyone is making comments. I have comments to make. But you do too, so please proceed.

Smith: No. My point is that each Supervisor was going to get to speak once.

McCowen: We’re beyond that, Madam Chair.

Smith: No, we’ve each all spoken once. Except the Chair! (Gestures to herself.)

McCowen: Please speak!

Smith: So each has spoken once and then we’re going to put it back on the agenda.

McCowen: (Silence… Silence.)

Smith: Mmm-k. Now. My sense about it is that, uhhh, the discussion that was left, the open part of the discussion, was more along the lines of the public-private partnership, um, concept and the methodology in which that was being brought forward, what would be the appropriate roles to be played and if there was considerably more work and dialog that needed to happen regarding everybody’s roles and responsibilities in that and that that was the item that was going to come back to the board. That’s my recollection.

McCowen: Ok.

Smith: That was a strong piece of what, of what needed to happen and was not resolved. And there were other questions that Supervisor Brown had regarding the appointments, uhhh, to, uhhh, the library advisory board, her concerns about that…

Brown: Museum.

Smith: Museum! I do this all the time. Not just today. And, um, and I have had a discussion with staff in their efforts to try and iron out lots of complexities about the appointment process, not just relevant to the museum board but we made considerable headway and I can have the clerk maybe walk us through what, what progress has been made on that, you’re appointment and my appointment are the two that are the most outstanding with the most, uh, time delay that needs to get worked out, but in that discussion we came upon some other issues that need to be resolved and I think we’re ready to have that discussion so maybe that should be bar— brought back as part of the, uh, the discussion of the, the museum, we could touch on all these points. So does that work?

McCowen: Madam chair.

Smith: Yes! Supervisor.

McCowen: Thank you. Just for the record, this is at least the second time you’ve spoken to the issue because you have already said what you have just now said again. Now, obviously, I’m swimming upstream on this. But what was said at that hearing, and again, for the record, it wasn’t agendized as a report, it was agendized with every item on the agenda being an action item. However, we did not take action. Uh, what we did say, quite clearly was that we did not favor closing the museum. But I don’t see how, in the current budget environment, where we are currently in a deficit, we have been perpetually in a deficit, we have actually been in deficit since 2005, where we know we are facing millions of additional, uh, expenses in the next fiscal year, and millions more in the fiscal year after that, I don’t see how we can responsibly rule out the possibility that there may be a more efficient way to administer the museum. Uh, when you have a staffing ratio of one department head to one employee maybe there’s another model that we could look at that would provide for efficient administration of the museum and free-up additional funds that could actually be used to support the museum and still realize the cost savings. So I just object to the idea that we’re going to go down the line and we’re going to rule everything out, uh, for potential savings when there may be more efficient ways to do our business.

Smith: Ok, fair enough. To the CEO, so maybe she could wrap up this discussion, how important we’re going to bring this to light. (Mumbles more to McCowen.)

* * *

CEO Carmel Angelo then agreed that there may be efficiencies as to how that museum is operated, etc. blah blah, and that options would be explored in the near future.

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