By Jim Simon, Principal
I was privileged to be part of a panel discussion hosted by CALAFCO around the topic of Proactively Navigating the Economic and Service Crisis” local agencies are facing in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic and wildfire disasters. I can share much about what I discussed, but I really want to talk about what my two fellow panelists discussed as it was inspiring what some thought leaders are doing.
Orange County LAFCO Executive Officer Carolyn Emery shared how their LAFCO has been running two web-based tools to help agencies view their fiscal condition relative to other agencies. Their fiscal trends webpage is now going through an update to provide more detail and transparency to illustrate how agencies compare and the fiscal trends they are experiencing. Orange County was one of (if not the) first organizations to implement a tool like this, and they seem to me to be doing the best job of it, spending a fair amount of time collaborating with management of these agencies in their effort to get buy in and support for this initiative. The other thing Orange County LAFCO is doing is a web-based shared services tool that allows agencies to offer up and seek partners to share services. This matchmaking tool is clever in that it allows these inquiries to start with some degree of discretion. But the best part to me is that it allows agencies to see what is possible beyond the doors of your organization. No organization can do well at everything, let alone with optimal efficiency.
Monterey County Supervisor and LAFCO Commissioner Jane Parker discussed how their LAFCO is adapting to a new role of advocacy in three key areas: offering innovative ideas for state and local solutions, being a more proactive resource to struggling small agencies, and engaging in local land use and CEQA processes. It’s notable that in both Monterey County and other counties around California, disadvantaged unincorporated communities are starting to get more attention beyond the simple pros/cons of annexation. Jane shared sobering statistics on how the COVID-19 crisis has affected disproportionately these communities, and I suspect many of those that listened in are inspired to see how LAFCOs can play an important role advocating for these communities more.
I was especially proud to share the virtual stage with these leaders and listen to their ideas.