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Letter To The Editor: Safety First

On April 6, 2017, at the taxpayers expense, a conference was held in Bass Lake for Madera County politicians and employees. The Agenda covered “Strategic Conversation with Staff related to the achievements, vision, goals, initiatives and priorities of Madera County.” We have yet to determine what the cost was to the taxpayers, because that information has not been forthcoming from the County.

Now the County plans another off-site conference centered around a golf tournament to include officials from the cities of Madera and Chowchilla. This will cost an undetermined amount of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in addition to using valuable staff resources. On the Agenda: “New Mission Statement, New Vision Statement, Intergovernmental Relations, Marketing the County in terms of image and how to use social media.”

Why are tax dollars funding a task force, a facilitator, a golfing event, food and beverage and staff resources to “create a culture of excellence?” Why aren’t these funds and resources being used for “safety?”

Are we creating a whole new County department here? A mission statement is what you do in your everyday work environment. It should not be necessary to have an off-site conference/golf event to accomplish your mission. Okay, yes, we know that a change of venue, a different environment inspires creativity, motivation; however there are fairly new, nice comfortable County facilities that cost taxpayers millions that are readily available for discussing these topics. So let’s use those instead, because that’s what they are there for. The Grand Jury Report of June 1, 2017 (Item 13) points this out in its investigation of excessive spending on meals for offsite conferences and meetings.

Perhaps we can use valuable County resources for fire protection and law enforcement instead of public relations. Perhaps we can just put this on the shelf until we have taken care of our fire protection needs, or is there a real problem with the County’s relationship or image with the public? If so, instead of creating a task force, golfing event, etc, let’s zero in on the problem. What are the complaints? Who are the complaints against? Make department heads responsible for their staff if they are creating bad publicity for the County and not serving the public adequately. If it’s department heads or politicians who are the problem, then it is the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors to address this, discipline the individual(s) and dish out the consequences. That will save money that can be used for fire protection.

Please read the Madera County, Board of Supervisors, Agenda Packet for June 6, 2017, beginning at page 653. If, what you read leaves you as perplexed and troubled as I was, then contact your district Supervisor and ask him to forego these projects until we have adequate fire protection service in operation.

We put the lives of our fire fighters at great risk every day by asking them to go to a fire without adequate or any backup, AND County officials are planning a golfing event to talk about “improving the County image and relationships? After reading this Agenda, I would have a hard time looking a fire fighter in the eye and explaining why the County can’t afford enough personnel to reduce their risk in responding to a call.

Terre Sparkman

Oakhurst, California

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