Guest View: Rivas should have taken more time for victories

Solar project supporters showed up to the courthouse for a court case late last year.

Last week saw the scheduled change of leadership at the San Benito County Board of Supervisors as Supervisor Robert Rivas assumed the chairmanship from Supervisor Margie Barrios. The chairmanship that rotates through the five districts means no one is left out, but it also means that the emphasis can change radically every year. Most key issues take more than a year to resolve. This system may be one reason the county is notoriously slow in dealing with so many important subjects. Now down to brass tacks.
Chairman Rivas thanked several individuals who supported the board in 2015 including CAO Ray Espinosa. He also thanked individuals who supported him personally throughout his career.
I wish he would have taken more time to detail the board’s accomplishments under Supervisor Barrios’ leadership because, collectively, they had a pretty good year. The following significant items go on the plus side of the ledger.
The board and employees agreed on key items concerning compensation and benefits and especially the difficult issue of healthcare costs. The county made strides in dealing with the debt structure of retiree healthcare, but there is a long way to go.
They also did a good job with their temporary and permanent hires and general restructuring for improved management and streamlining. They have put in key people who know their business and many operational “silos” were eliminated from the organizational chart. It has already paid dividends in better management.
Another major accomplishment was the initial implementation of the county’s new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system with few hiccups.
The advancement of two critical projects, the PV2 Solar Plant and the San Juan Oaks Del Webb adult community, are likely to provide the county with substantial long-term additional revenue. Meanwhile, the wide adoption of Community Facility and/or Service Districts ensures that the ongoing cost burden will borne by those facilities and new communities.
City-county relations have improved in the last few months; based on our county structure those relationships are critical for future success. Neither entity can make real progress without the other.
Finally, the cherry on top was the adoption of a General Plan that protects areas that need protecting, recognizes that growth is inevitable, tries to find proper locations for it with study areas, and establishes designated commercial nodes along Highway 101.
All that being said, people and organizations can learn a lot from their failures and mistakes and there have been several. Step one is to acknowledge them, only then can you effectively go on to fix things so that the errors are not repeated.
For the future I fully support Rivas’ call for increased government transparency, but cringe at his continued demonizing of outside interests even though it plays well in some local quarters. It takes two to tango and our most serious ethics problem was a former board member not an outsider. That problem, which smeared the county’s reputation and lightened its pocketbook, shows where the real danger lies. Perhaps more ethics training for the board members would be a better start. Everyone who comes before the board, including outside interests, deserves equal, respectful, treatment and it’s also a legal requirement.
The county’s population has increased by 60 percent since 1990 and half the workers commute. We have to stop treating this new, mobile population as mere bedroom users; they are as important to our well-being as the old-line families. We must encourage and support their full participation in the community; without them the county would not be a paradise, it would be a backwater.
“Honor the past, celebrate the present and embrace the future”—all three have an essential place in the community. Committing the county to partner with the city for a new Library—Community Center was Chairman Rivas’ excellent choice for a big idea to do all three.
For the upcoming year I wish the county and city well; if they do well I do well because I live here.

Leave your comments