Looking For a Cheaper, Better, Faster Orange County

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If County Supervisor Bill Campbell gets his way, expect to hear Orange County Republicans talking a lot more about social welfare programs and healthcare clinics than they are used to.

But it’s not because Campbell’s heart has all of a sudden started bleeding. It’s because he wants to see government delivering services cheaper, better and faster.

“It’s my business experience,” says Campbell of his main motivation as he prepares today to preside as chairman of the county board of supervisors for the second time in his career.

While the yearlong chairmanship of the board is somewhat ceremonial, it does provide a bully pulpit for a supervisor to lead through the setting of the weekly public meeting agenda and control over regional appointments to boards and commissions.

The 1994 bankruptcy forced county officials to come up with a solid approach toward strategic financial planning, Campbell said.

He calls it, “living within your means.”

However, Campbell worries that county officials are not viewing service delivery with the same kind of strategic approach. Government, he says, can be way too risk-averse when it comes to innovation.

He wants to develop a “balanced scorecard,” one that not only looks at how well resources are guarded but also asks how well are services being provided.

“This is really about running a big enterprise,” said Campbell about the evolving job facing counties and countywide elected leaders, especially as Gov. Jerry Brown moves to restore counties’ role as regional providers of medical and social services.

Campbell says that his biggest challenge this year will be getting county officials to innovate while operating in an environment of shrinking resources.

Here are some specifics:

  • Pension reform. Campbell acknowledges that county officials have to work hard to convince officials at the IRS to change rules allowing employees to opt into cheaper pension plans. At the same time, he said officials have to step up their sales pitch for the new lower tier of benefits and convince many employees that they may prefer a good retirement plan that doesn’t drain as much money from their monthly paychecks.
  • Redistricting. Supervisors have to steer a process that produces balanced districts without attracting lawsuits over civil rights claims.
  • IT reform. With a host of critical audits and a controversial exit for Deputy CEO for IT, Satish Ajmani, Campbell acknowledges that County CEO Tom Mauk will have to control the department and manage a difficult bidding process for a new IT company.
  • Parks. Managing the Irvine Company donation of 20,000 acres near Irvine Regional Park as well as building park facilities in areas like Tustin.
  • Donor county status. Campbell sees an opportunity with Gov. Brown’s budget plans to get rid of redevelopment agencies potentially providing an opportunity for Orange County to renegotiate it’s share of property taxes kept by the state.
  • Regional leadership. With the league of cities disbanding in OC, Campbell says it is time for the county to lead. So expect more talk about regional issues like transportation, water and homelessness. Finally, Campbell expects to have more direct contact across the board with mayors and other city officials.


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