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The county pyramid of waste and confusion

Local Commentary

Posted: March 8, 2008 2:24 a.m.
Updated: May 9, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Once in a while I am involved in a mission to Nicaragua, which involves importing school supplies or medical equipment or supplies.

This requires that I write a statement of intentions, get it notarized, have the notary seal authenticated by the county of Los Angeles, and then have the county seal authenticated by the Nicaraguan consul in Los Angeles.

It seemed like a lot of work, but I went to Santa Clarita City Hall and asked the city clerk, Sharon Dawson, to notarize my statement. I was fully confident that her seal would be authenticated by the county without question.

I was wrong.

When I got to the county clerk's area office in Van Nuys, officials there had no record of Sharon Dawson. After some discussion, it turned out that there were three county clerks offices: in Van Nuys, Norwalk and Lancaster.

Each one had only some of the notaries registered. I had to get my papers notarized again and return to the back of the line at the county. As a result, the process took two days.

All the time
Another time I went straight to Van Nuys. However, notaries public seemed to be scarce that day. By the time I found one and got to the county clerk's office, it was 11:02, two minutes too late. The excuse was that the county was short-staffed, so office hours had to be cut.

The next morning I was almost first in line, but the routine was different. Instead of going to the original signature record in the card files, they worked with a computer. It took forever. I did make it to the consulate in time, so the whole process took two days this time, also.

At least I had not had to make a trip to Norwalk, which used to be the case when one had to visit the county clerk.

The trouble with our county government is that this goes on all the time. The organization is huge, with layers and layers of employees; very few know anything about how to get things done. Not only did notaries public in Santa Clarita not know that for a time they were registered only in Lancaster, but few people in the county government knew it, either.

Before Proposition 13 passed in 1978, each county could set its own tax rate. Yes, Los Angeles County had the highest by far.

Let us face it. The bigger the government, the more layers it has. A small county might have two layers of staff, or perhaps three. A larger county might have five. The largest county in the world (yes, that is Los Angeles), which is bigger than most sovereign nations, has many more layers.

Reform needed
The people in each layer up get paid higher salaries. Many of them are worth the money. But why have such a complicated government that needs such highly paid top supervisors?

Most counties in California are much smaller in population than Santa Clarita. Los Angeles County is a monstrosity because no one has worked for county reform for over a hundred years.

Paying our county Supervisor, Michael Antonovich, well over $150,000 a year to do a really tough job is not unreasonable. However, he has a large staff and several offices, all multiplied by the fact that there are four other supervisors. In Santa Clarita, the entire council does not make $150,000, and the last time I looked it had one part-time staff member.

Off our backs
In ancient times the pharaohs worked the slaves really hard to build pyramids. Here pyramids are built by a lack of public caring. We have just gone on and on for over a hundred years, allowing the pyramid of huge county government to get ever larger.

We need to get this pyramid off our backs and out of our pockets.

Carl Boyer was chairman of the City Formation Committee in 1987 and retired from the Santa Clarita City Council in 1998. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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