After four debates, weeks of listening to other county candidate positions, Jim Relaford has come to the conclusion that reorganization — from the bottom up — is the only way the county can solve all its problems.
Reorganization, he said, does not need to be as drastic as that outlined in House Bill 3453, in which the state would, upon the county commissioners’ request, evaluate and change how local government is run.
And it wouldn’t quite be what commissioners were calling the “burn it down” approach, either, in which the county would just keep spending money until it went broke, he said.
“That’s from the top down,” Relaford said. “Cutting departments — all that’s doing is dealing with the institutional department. I prefer to say the county is this amorphous mass of people who are supposed to deliver services to a constituency.”
“I think we could do it with about half the staff we have now, and live within the current tax base,” he said.
“If we use function-based and zero-based budgeting that businesses have used forever, we would start with no people and no money,” he added. “Add to it based on what the people want.”
The only exception, he said, would be the Sheriff’s Office, which is integral to a civilized society, and services mandated by state law. He said commissioners should continue to fund county operations from the road fund and then convince state representatives to allow Curry County to have five more years of taking from it to give local elected officials time to restructure the government.
“We need time to get our act together,” he said, adding that the gist should be to combine functions of existing departments. An example he cited could involve placing the duties of the assessor in with those of the treasurer, all under the guise of “finance.”
The way it’s done now, Relaford said, is a “remnant of the past,” as is the current methods of electing people to department-head jobs.
That’s where the Home Rule Charter, also on the May 20 ballot, would be key, Relaford said.
“It is essential to pass that charter to get a handle on any kind of planning,” he said. “With three commissioners today, with different goals and different plans for the future, there is no way for the county to come forward as an organization.”
He cites his experience on the Port of Brookings Harbor board, during which time the port has gone from running in the red to being on track to bringing in $3 million this year. He attributes much of the success to the hiring of an administrator — as the home rule charter would do — to address day-to-day issues at the port. The board, in turn, deals with legislation and statewide port issues.
“The financial report was a check register and the bank balance,” he said. “That was the sum and substance of the port financial condition. The first thing we did was put in place a new financial system of profit and loss.
“We can tell every month how each enterprise is doing: cold storage, ice house, the RV park. We hired a strong executive — and created a real success story. He listened to what we wanted, and he went out and did it. That’s exactly what we need at the county.”
“We need to look at things differently, figure out a way to solve the problem and do it. It won’t take long, and we’ll have a real success story.”
Relaford’s website, www.relafordforcommissioner.com, is slated to be operational Thursday.