Time to Answer Questions About Mendo’s Debt

by Letters to the Editor, February 10, 2010

Dear Editor:

Thanks to Michael Anderson of the Farm Bureau, and also to Wendy Pollitz, Antonia Andrade and Ted Stephens for their recent columns in the Ukiah Daily Journal. “Mendocino County's debt still in shadow” and “County's debt a serious problem” paint a grim picture of the county’s finances.

Financial analyst John Dickerson’s latest “Your Public Money” email broadside is titled “Mendocino County Debt: Time to Act.”

I agree that it’s time to get answers. Officials who deny that Mendocino County's debt is a problem must explain why, in language “easily understandable by the public.” Dickerson says Mendocino County residents have more debt per person than any county in California. That needs some explaining, too.

Yes, let’s set up “a committee of qualified citizens along with appropriate staff and two Supervisors to determine the best way to solve this crisis and create a sustainable budget for the future,” and with meetings held in public. One of my platform planks in my campaign for 3rd District supervisor is: “Include public input on the current fiscal crisis: Mendocino County deserves a more democratic approach and participatory budgeting that fosters local buy-in for the difficult choices ahead.”

But will a committee be enough?

UDJ Sunday View columnist Mark Scaramella joins the Farm Bureau in a call for implementing what he describes as “basic management reporting and information systems” not in use in county government today, but Scaramella goes further to suggest a citizens audit of larger county departments, using what he calls “tiger teams” of “local retirees and volunteers to scrutinize each departmental budget and provide clear information and recommendations.” Citizen auditors charged with evaluating specific departments could be a good idea: who gets to choose the “tigers”? is one question, and will qualified citizens step forward? is another.

I’m attending Thursday’s meeting of the executive office’s Retirement Health Benefits Committee, and I hope other concerned citizens and candidates will join me.

Holly Madrigal, member Willits City Council

candidate for 3rd District Supervisor

459-0447

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