I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days last week in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to learn about four very innovative programs. A few weeks ago I spent a Saturday in Tulare County meeting with teens and learning how one county program is enhancing their lives.
When I was sworn in as CSAC President last fall, I declared that I wanted my term to be known as the “Year of the Child.” I emphasized that all our actions as an Association and as leaders in our respective counties needed to be put in the context of how they impact our children. For an Association such as ours, this can be complex; while we work on a variety of issues of importance to our members, the actual impact on our children can be perceived as indirect yet still critically important.
Innovation is alive and well in our counties. Yesterday, I had the honor of presenting at the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting, recognizing the county for two outstanding, innovative programs.
The presentation was part of our annual CSAC Challenge Awards road show. Other presentations are on tap: Mono County next Tuesday, Nevada County the following week, followed by Sacramento and Stanislaus Counties. The list goes on. Overall, we will be presenting awards at 11 board meetings over the next two months.
When people say that government agencies should be run more like a business, I suspect what they really mean is that government should use more efficient processes that result in better customer service. That’s what Sacramento County is now offering through a change of technology and process in their Cal-Fresh Service Center.
Under the old “case based” model, when someone applied for Cal-Fresh benefits, they were assigned to a case-worker who was in charge of that file. When you had questions, needed to make some changes or had any other reason to contact the program, you had to talk to your case-worker. That model worked because that one person gets to know his or her cases over time, but with growing case loads and limited budgets, the old way became unwieldy and inflexible.
Riverside County covers more than 7,000 square miles, and includes some of the most sparsely populated landscape in the state. Keeping a county that big clean isn’t always easy, but Riverside County has a long-running jail inmate work program to pick up trash and maintain the landfills. It helps keep the roadsides clean and the inmates get some much-needed activity. But a few years ago, Riverside County, like many in the state and across the country, found itself in a very tight budget situation. Money for minor construction and other small projects at the landfills had to be redirected to other priorities — and many of those projects were languishing. That’s when county leaders realized they might just have an untapped asset. What if you could expand the inmate program to include some of these other activities, as well as the typical trash clean up?