"Believe nothing until it has been officially denied."
— Claud Cockburn
For a recent local example of Mr. Cockburn’s adage, Ukiah City Councilwoman and Second District Supers candidate Maureen ‘Mo’ Mulheren strenuously denied that her pet $4.5 million three-mile “linear park” along the railroad tracks in Ukiah is a “trail to nowhere.” That’s true. It ends at the Ukiah sewage treatment plant, making for “a nice 5k.”
Similarly, at last Wednesday’s Measure B Oversight Committee meeting, former Sheriff Tom Allman denied that hiring a couple more staffers for the latest Measure B project manager is “a couple of cush government jobs made for friends and family.”Allman also predicted that “There will be people in the public saying, 'Oh My God, there goes our money'.” Au contraire, insisted Allman, “These will be hard working Measure B people.”
Given the nearly invisible progress associated everything associated with Measure B, we’re adding the phrase “Hard Working Measure B people” to the AVA’s Top Ten Oxymorons, right up there with “amicable divorce,” “military intelligence,” and “I’ll never forget ol’ What’shername.”
County CEO and Measure B Committee member Carmel Angelo had just announced that she had hired Ms. Alyson Bailey of Willits as the new Measure B project manager, replacing Isabel Gonzalez who lasted only a few weeks before being overwhelmed by her workload, thus the more staff solution proposal. Ms. Bailey runs (ran?) a consulting business called “Edify,” an ill-defined Willits-based outfit which “provides Marketing, Design, Public Relations, and other business necessities without the expense of employment, or burnout.” Ms. Bailey told the Committee that she had previously worked for Anna Shaw at Hospitality Center in Fort Bragg, but had since branched out into project management and consulting.
CEO Angelo said that the Measure B Project Manager certainly needs a senior data analyst and a staff assistant because the CEO simply doesn't have enough county staff to do “all this work.” As has become standard in justifying more expansion of her Executive Office coterie, the CEO went on for several minutes, spraying the captive committee with a prolonged burst of stupefying bureaucratese which she seems to think — correctly, as it turned out — will persuade the skeptical that managing Measure B is a really big job requiring more work than just a project manager and some high-priced consultants.
After pointing out that “There will be people in the public saying 'Oh My God, there goes our money’,” former Sheriff Allman said that the Committee had “tried Kemper and Nacht & Lewis,” implying that the prior and current consultants just weren’t enough. “I don’t want these jobs to be lasting forever,” added Allman. “Our mission is for brick and mortar. These jobs will last three or four years while we get our projects done.”
Three or four years sounds awfully optimistic since so little has been “done” so far.
Continuing his attempt to preemptively squelch a torrent of criticism from Mendo's somnolent media, Allman added: “There’s going to be accountability for these jobs because we can’t build what we don’t know what we need.”
Right. So, gimme a couple more analysts and — voila! — accountability!
“The project manager and the other [additional] employees are going to be able to adequately present it [“it” being undefined] to the committee and the public so we understand where we’re going. We don’t need a road map. We have a road map. But the specific projects that need to be accomplished, there’s not government staff to say, Go do that. And if we don’t have the right people, in 50 years from now we can look in the rearview mirror if we’re still alive and say we squandered a whole bunch of money. So we are trying to spend it appropriately, but we have to get the right people into the right jobs to answer to you and answer to us that we are doing the right thing.”
CEO Angelo added that she thinks they’ll probably need a third position later, adding that she thought “a lot of thinking goes into our hiring and contracting.”
In the end Angelo proposed that they be a tad cautious and only hire one senior data analyst and a quarter-time admin assistant for now; the Committee enthusiastically approved. But count on it: it won’t be long before Angelo proposes a couple more “hard working Measure B people.” After all, the committee was prepared to approve three new hires right off.
In other Measure B news, County Mental Health Director Dr. Jenine Miller said that the County is now committed to the state to having a Crisis Stabilization Unit up and open and running by November of 2021 at the Orchard Street property next door to Camille Schrader’s existing Redwood Community Services operation to be partially funded by the state’s $500k Mental Health seed grant. There’s apparently some chance that it would also include some Crisis Residential beds, depending on space.
This latest promise — you’d think that they’d avoid issuing hard dates anymore since their track record is so poor — is part of the overall bum’s (sic) rush to get this particular Crisis Unit operation going before the recently approved but barely begun “operational feasibility study” called for by Supervisor Ted Williams and the rest of the Board of Supervisors is complete. The state's provision of that juicy $500k dollop of funding makes this part of the Measure B project picture presumptively “operationally feasible” before anything else is done, much less studied.
Committee member Ross Liberty raised a question of what the Committee or County could be doing to improve services in the short term since about a quarter of the Measure B revenue is supposed to be used for service improvements.
In response, Allman suggested that it might be time to check out Eugene, Oregon’s crisis van program which Ukiah Police Chief Justin Wyatt urged the Committee to explore a year ago but which quickly disappeared down Measure B’s ever-expanding memory hole even though everyone thought that was a great idea. “Everything else to this point has been an academic conversation,” admitted Allman. “We have $13 million [in accumulated sales tax revenues so far]. Taxpayers want services. We should have this [the topic of additional short-term services] on every agenda.”
But following up on Chief Wyatt’s eminently sensible and immediately doable crisis van proposal soon collapsed when the Committee decided it would be better to have the nearly non-functional “Behavioral Health Advisory Board” make suggestions on upgraded services. The hard working Measure B Committee certainly could not be expected to take any action, however sensible, on their own.
Although staffing up with more and more admin people gets done with enthusiasm and pre-emptive squelching of skepticism, conveniently missing from the agenda was any mention of getting the County’s fully funded, highly praised, but minimally staffed Mobile Outreach van service back up to speed again.
The bumblingly inert Committee B also seems to have conveniently forgotten about — or more accurately intentionally ignored —the Measure B requirement that they “Conduct an independent annual audit and develop a performance management strategy which measures the effectiveness of the improved services, treatment and facilities and assesses the impact of the ‘Mental Health Treatment Act’.”
It’s going on three years now and there has never been an “annual audit,” nor any mention of developing a “performance management strategy which measures the effectiveness of the improved services, treatment and facilities [which] assesses the impact of the ‘Mental Health Treatment Act’.”
And even with a couple more “hard working Measure B people,” there’s no evidence that there ever will be.