Letter to the editor: failure to communicate

inyosups2014by Charles James

Benett, thank you for your effort to reach out to the Inyo Board of Supervisors on their vote to approve pay raises to county employees ten months ago without a plan in place to pay for the $2 million it added to an already existing structural deficit.

It doesn’t seem that in the “Comments Section” of the Sierra Wave website that the public is “buying” the idea of going into further debt without first knowing exactly where the money will come from first. Perhaps that would have taken an extra month or so of the Supervisors and CAO’s time…but really, after four years, what was the hurry?

It may be true that the Supervisors are over-reliant on information provided to them by the CAO, although from their comments it seems they relied more on “his opinion” than facts. Without reliable information from the CAO, I’m not sure what their other resources might be– perhaps using their own initiative by looking at how other counties in similar situations are addressing the issue of pay raises was one? Perhaps reaching out to their constituents for ideas or–here’s a concept worth exploring– asking the employees themselves BEFORE, not after approving raises?

What possibilities might the negotiations with the employee unions have had if, before approving anything, the Supervisors told the unions that no raises could be made until the money was found first to cover the added expense? Now that would have possibly lit a real fire to the Service Redesign effort!

What these Supervisors don’t seem to quite understand is that “knowing” is not the same as “understanding. Ten months ago when they voted for the pay raises, it is only now that they are really being forced to explain their decision to the public…and now only because they have no choice, largely thanks to your efforts Benett.

The public is entitled to know more than simply how the Supervisors vote on an issue; they are entitled to “understand” why a decision is made… not find out ten months later the “why” on an issue which would clearly would have a negative impact on county services. The basic tenets of any is “Who, What, When, Where, WHY, and HOW?” This board’s decision of the “Why and How” has been largely lacking until now.

This current situation reminds me of two quotes from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” with Paul Newman:

Boss: “Sorry, Luke (Paul Newman). I’m just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.

Luke: Nah – calling it your job don’t make it right…”


Captain, Road Prison 36, to Luke: “What we’ve got here is… failya’ to com-mu-ni-cate.”


Charles James

138 Elmcrest Drive

Big Pine, CA 93513

6 Responses to Letter to the editor: failure to communicate

  1. Tinner July 2, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I couldn’t help but to think of Honda’s (motorcycle) sales pitch a few years back which was:
    “Ride now, buy now, pay later”

  2. Jason July 2, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    It’s so easy to Monday-morning quarterback the decisions of the Supervisors. The bottom line is that we elected them to do the job and make decisions. If you can do better, then please run for office. I for one am comfortable with how they operate.

  3. Curious July 2, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    Is the one in the middle of the picture on his cell phone during a meeting? I wonder every time I see this picture. Thought it was an appropriate time to ask since the OP is about communication.

    • Benett Kessler July 2, 2014 at 7:34 am #

      No one is on a cell phone during the Board meeting. BK

    • Charles James July 2, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      I cover many of the BOS meetings for local news media. Supervisor Griffith is not on the cell phone in the photo, but it is not unusual to see the supervisors checking and sending emails or text messages during meetings. They sometimes use the Internet on their phones or tablets to pull up facts and information; it is limited and discrete for the most part. I do the same thing myself, as do others in attendance, so its hardly my place to criticize them for doing it.

      They are very aware that people are watching them, just as they know that the meeting is on live cable television and often is being recorded.

      BOS meetings are often very long days with very few, very short breaks. Supervisors are zealous in giving the public the courtesy of having plenty of time to speak to an issue. It often throws them well off their time schedule. Most lunch breaks are often only 30 minutes or less.

      Using mobile technology is embedded in our day-to-day lives and that is unlikely to change. However, if one of them pulls an “Anthony Weiner” stunt during one of the meetings, well then I’m drawing the line!

  4. chris July 1, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    Very well stated, Mr. James. I especially like, and agree with, your statement that the public is (and the Supes are) “…entitled to know more than simply how the Supervisors vote on an issue; they are entitled to “understand” why a decision is made…”

    It is the Board members responsibility to delve into proposals and issues brought before them, and to make wise decisions based on what they’ve learned in their own research as well as taking into account what staff provides to them. I’m not suggesting they go behind the CAO’s back, but that they use “critical thinking” when working on any issue, particularly thorny ones.


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