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Finding Bad Ideas

One of the first things I learned as an elected official many years ago was that citizen-voters have very modest expectations of officeholders and the bureaucrats who carry out their decisions.

That’s certainly the case here in Mendocino County.

For example, most folks are content if there is adequate police and fire protection, potholes are filled, their garbage is picked up, their kids are receiving a good education, and there is an adequate safety net for people in some sort of distress, such as needing mental health or medical assistance.

The one thing most of us don’t want government officials doing is creating problems, difficulties, or putting us in harm’s way. We want them to do their jobs, which is to solve problems, alleviate difficulties, and keep us out of harm’s way.

All too often officials in this county seemingly go out of their way to find bad ideas, and once they locate that bad idea, they run full-speed ahead with it.

Case in point, very recent developments on the library front.

Up here in Laytonville three years ago folks got together and formed the Friends of Long Valley Public Library. Since then they have been fundraising with the goal of building a brick-and-mortar public library in our town. My daughter Jayma is part of that effort. Their organization is committed to this project because they know if they wait for the county to do it, it’s never going to happen. By way, their fundraising has been very successful as Laytonville area residents trust them and they understand if Laytonville is to have a public library we’ll have to do it ourselves.

Now you would think that the county’s public policy around library issues would be non-controversial and rather routine. Nope, not here in Mendocino County.

According to the Mendocino County Library Advisory Board (LAB) trouble is afoot:

“A Cultural Services Agency, now under consideration by the County, would incorporate three departments/programs: the Library, Museum, and County Parks. Allegedly, these three existing departments/programs incorporate similar vision and purpose, including providing informational, educational and recreational access to Mendocino County communities. Apparently the County believes that through the potential consolidation of these departments/programs under one administrative umbrella, our community will have greater access to resources. By forming an agency, the County believes it will be better positioned to apply for grants and/or funding streams, will increase administrative efficiency by sharing resources for marketing, finance, outreach programs, and provide the potential for Countywide collaboration between the three departments/programs.”

The LAB says the county’s attempt to create a new Department, the so-called Cultural Services Agency (CSA), which is being pushed by CEO Carmel Angelo and supported by 3rd District Supervisor Georgeanne Croskey, is a bad idea.

The Library Advisory Board feels so strongly about this bad idea, they have drafted a position paper informing the Board of Supervisors not to implement it.

Here are a few excerpts from their position paper which explain the issue in very plain, understandable language.

“The Library is self-funded through its pro-rata share of property tax and Measure A sales tax revenue. By law, these funds are dedicated to the Library. The CEO treats the Library as a County Department, believes that the Library can be administered as such, and that the County has the legal authority to fold the Library into the proposed CSA. This may be contrary to California Code if the Grand Jury’s finding are correct. (See GJ Report 2013-14, pages 8-9; Education Code §19146) … Prior to the passage of Measure A, the Board of Supervisors considered closing the Willits Branch and the Bookmobile. The Library had no budget for materials. The branches were open only three days per week. Measure A, approved by 75% of the voters, reversed this dire condition.”

Here are the main arguments against folding the library into the proposed new department:

1. Today we have a thriving library system but the future of the library is contingent on a renewal of Measure A funding in 2027. Any actual or perceived co-mingling, diverting or misuse of the Library’s dedicated funding or library reserve fund will detrimentally affect the passage of voter approved future library funding, thus returning the Library to its pre-2011 crisis condition.

2. The Library deserves the time and attention of a fulltime Library Director. Additional ad/min staff should be hired on as needed basis. Library staffing is not contingent on a proposed CSA. There is no reason the Museum facilities could not be used now by the Library for office space without being part of a CSA. Agencies often rent space to each other. The best intentions of the County to safeguard proper use of Library funds in the proposed agency budget would be impossible to track and would lead to public mistrust.

3. It is likely that what the CEO means by [the agency] will have “greater access [to] shared resources” is that the Museum and Parks will have the potential to utilize Library funds through ambiguous accounting and unspecified co-mingled costs of ad/min and A-87 expenditures. The County’s opaque accounting practices, past attempts to inaccurately assess A-87 charges and refusal to consider following state law regarding the proper source of the Director’s salary are reasons to doubt the intentions of the County in its attempt to combine the Library with the Museum and Parks into an agency. The Library, Museum and Parks have disparate missions and volume of public use. The Library had a door count of approximately 417,000 in 2017, while the Museum had approximately 8,000-10,000 visitors in 2017, including special events.  The Library is free while the Museum requests an admission fee. The Library and Museum provide educational opportunities but have differing use of resources. Their appeal is not congruent. Libraries are dynamic. They strive to adapt to changing community needs and serve as vibrant community centers. The Museum’s mission is the preservation of historical artifacts. It is a tourist destination and a resource for County residents. Our Parks are mainly gifted properties to the County and have more in common with the Museum as historic sites with limited use as recreational facilities. Both the Museum and Parks clearly need attention and deserve dedicated leadership to improve, maintain and promote the use of their assets and properties.

4. It is dubious logic that says that combining the Museum with the Library and Parks will serve the public any better than they are now. It is feasible for any of the three to work on joint grants and programs now. We believe the Library, Museum and Parks are and have been capable of applying for grants independently and have no need for affiliation. For example, the Bookmobile was procured in part by a Department of Agriculture grant with the strong support of Supervisor Brown. Outreach can be accomplished collaboratively between agencies. There does not need to be a combined agency or budget. There is no evidence that demonstrates that combining departments/programs is a more effective management system in providing services to communities. The proposed CSA is contingent on a convenient and reductionist approach rather than being a forward thinking structural change that takes into account the best interests of the Library, Museum and Parks.

The LAB concludes that the “Cultural Services Agency will harm the Library for the following reasons:

  • Jeopardize future library funding.
  • Reduce the director and ad/min staff to part-time with diminished focus on library services and programs.
  • Loss of control of the library budget and library reserve fund through the potential for co-mingling and improper use of dedicated library funds.
  • Prop up the Museum and Parks at the Library's expense.
  • Less effective administration and loss of services.

We Advise The Board Of Supervisors To Reject The Proposed Cultural Services Agency.

I agree with the Library Advisory Board’s recommendation to the Supes.

This is a bad idea that needs to be deep-sixed.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:


  1. izzy April 4, 2018

    Of course, if it wasn’t for all the effort going into these bad ideas, a lot of the big-check folks would have nothing to do. Perhaps they could be “repurposed”?

    • Granny Swan April 5, 2018


      I hear that the Roads Department needs more shovel-leaners & sign-turners . . . similar skill sets as the big-check folks “cubicle set” in Ukiah?

      But . . . who then, WHO? will set up the coffee&donuts schedule? Bad Ideas require Bad Coffee and Trans-Fats$$$s, not transfers to necessary jobs, ya think? . . . LOL

  2. Granny Swan April 4, 2018

    Thanks Jim, for your cogent words. Frankly, now we need Johnny Pinches to saddle up and ride that horse all the way to Ukiah one more time as Supervisor!

    ==> As 3rd District Supe during his last ride, Johnny was instrumental in working with the Friends of the Library to win Measure A, as well as creating the Round Valley Public Library Commons in Covelo . . . It’s exciting to see folks in your domain now using the same model that we did :) to create a library that has all the features that you currently dream of in Laytonville!

    As you remember, back then, yep, Johnny as the 3rd Supe brought in the County MOU for staffing & utilities for the NEW LIBRARY for Covelo some 7 years ago; but it was the Round Valley Public Library Commons “Friends” who actually conceived and did the work. Community bought the building, remodeled it, ==>AND included a cafe & a radio station (KYBU) & a commercial kitchen & Solar panels & the Susan Wilson Memorial Community Room for music, movies, meetings, classes, etc

    OH And park for events and Farmers Market & a shaded outdoor patio + ++ HOW? WHY?

    Because the entire community (Cowboys, Indians, AlternativeLivestylers and various NGO Public & Private Foundations) ALL had dreamed of the RVPL Commons for generations (1977-present).

    They made it happen ==> themselves!
    And they were in-charge, not Mendocino County. Same for the Coast Library (Point Arena) in the 5th District about four years ago. And both libraries have qualities that you’d never have seen if they had been designed and built by the County.

    Candidate Ted Williams & Johnny Pinches BOTH get the concept of “Get er done!” imho. (And both actually have the chops to read a spreadsheet themselves and do a little “nut cuttin'” when necessary ‘-)


    Cindy Swan

    Mendocino County resident since 1977
    Owner/Editor, RoundValleyNews, 1993—2007
    Longtime Friend of the Library
    Founding Member, KYBU (Yolla Bolly Universe-ity)
    Member KMUD, KNYO-LP,
    KZYZ CharterMember back in the day….

    POB 1442, Mendocino 95460
    GrannyFone, 734-3187 (ancient, not SmartPhone, text only)

  3. Jim Shields April 5, 2018

    Your insight is brilliant. I never would have made the connection between bad idea searching and perpetual job security for the swivel chair cadre. You got a head on them shoulders, girl. BTW, MDOT has basically closed the county yard here in L-Ville.

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