Development community supports new agency

By From page A14 | December 07, 2012

El Dorado County Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly spoke at length and in detail as she laid out her recommendation that the county create a new Community Development Agency. El Dorado County supervisors listened and eventually approved all aspects of the recommendation. Only Supervisor Ray Nutting disagreed with enough elements of the proposal that he voted “no” on Supervisor Jack Sweeney’s motion to approve the recommendation.

Although opponents were clear and vocal about their concerns, the restructuring of the county’s departments of Development Services, Environmental Management and Transportation was widely supported by members of the local development community. That group included several who have volunteered many hours and professional expertise serving on various commissions and committees over the past two years. The Economic Development Advisory Committee and its subcommittee for regulatory reform was particularly well represented among the speakers at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

As she opened the discussion, Daly reminded the board that it had directed her two years ago to “look at the operations of Building C” (the county government building that houses the three departments in question).

“We found a lack of clear policy-making decisions and a costly way of doing business. Action had been taken over the past 10 years,” she acknowledged. “And that was to get rid of the department heads. We didn’t want to do it that way any longer.”

She described a history of the departments operating in separate silos that led to “inconsistent policy implementations, multiple and different interpretations of rules and no easy way to get policy analysis to the policy decision-makers.”

Because of that structure, she said “policy gets messy and hard and takes a long time, so it falls to the bottom of the heap (of operations and priorities).”

She described the new agency structure as a “one-stop” center for all things development-related. Headed by a director of community development, with one assistant community development director and an assistant for administration and finance, the agency will be “integrated and coordinated,” she said.

“It will not be more costly, and it will not be more bureaucracy,” she promised. And in response to critics who say she has created more power and a larger empire for the CAO’s Department, she assured the board, “not so; I don’t want more power.”

Noah Briel from El Dorado Hills, a member of the EDAC Regulatory Reform group, endorsed the new structure for its ability to provide much better coordination among the separate county divisions. Fellow committee member Jim Brunello followed Briel to the podium and recalled to the board, “You directed an executive advisory team to address the culture (in the county’s development related services departments). This is the most complete change in culture since I’ve been around.”

Ken Calhoon from the Georgetown Divide Chamber of Commerce praised the move toward regulatory reform as a way to ensure “consistency and guidelines” in the development process.

Michael Ranalli noted that up till now policy has been done on a case-by-case basis, “and it’s very difficult for the public. I appreciate fear of change, but we have to challenge our fears. We’ve had a structural failure, and I hope you’ll move forward on this.”

“I think it’s a brilliant recommendation,” development specialist Kathye Russell told the board. “For years policy has been interpreted differently by everyone… My big fear would be in not making this change.”

El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laurel Brent-Bumb said her group is very supportive of the restructuring. And with a bit of tongue in cheek, she said, “Change is frightening, but it’s the only consistency in life.”

Chris Daley

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