Noting the presence of outgoing Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) Chief and current Sheriff-Elect Jim McDonnell and the shifting of many supervisor seats, Supervisor Don Knabe opened his State of the County address at the Convention Center with the vast changes occurring throughout the county.
“I must say, nowhere are we seeing more change than within the County,” Knabe said. “In a few weeks, Hilda Solis will replace Gloria Molina and Sheila Kuehl will replace Zev Yaroslavsky. We’ll also have a new sheriff in town and a new Assessor… In all the time I have been with the County, in my nearly 18 years as a supervisor, there has been nothing like it.”
With some 100,000 employees and an annual budget of some $27B, Knabe lamented that the many shifts in leadership roles also leads to “volumes of institutional knowledge departing.” Noting that the county has achieved milestones due to prudent planning through tough times, amounting to two credit rating increases and having relatively avoided layoffs and furloughs. This, according to Knabe’s logic, is intimately tied to the aforementioned institutional knowledge.
However, Knabe continued, it is time to host “a new generation of younger folks moving into leadership positions—something i am very excited about.”
Among the many ongoing issues being handed down to the new generation of leaders, Knabe noted, is the countywide jail violence epidemic, which prompted the Board to create the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence because “because we weren’t seeing a strategy for change or a commitment to turn things around.” To date, 45 of their 60 recommendations have been implemented.
Not excluded from controversy is the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, whose sole mission to protect children from needless suffering or death was thwarted due to, in the words of Andrea Rich of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, “inherent problems in running big, awful bureaucracies.”
Knabe said that the County has no more important job than protecting its children and, when something goes awry, “fingerprinting begins.” He expressed criticism at the Commission’s recommendation to create a “Czar of Child Protection,” stating that such money should allocated to the social workers out in the field.
In the end, Knabe seemed adamantly against the way the County has approached the controversy.
“We’re now spinning our wheels on [recommendations,” Knabe said. “Creating committees, commissions, and task forces is very often NOT about solving problems. It’s about avoiding the tough decisions or having the patience to see it through, even when critics are everywhere, making headlines.”
In regard to healthcare, Knabe said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is here “whether you’re for or against it,” and it has prompted the County to approach healthcare from an entirely new angle—for the better, according to Knabe.
Primary care has altered due to the creation of patient-centered medical homes. New systems of technology allow doctors to share information more efficiently with the launch of the new records systems at Harbor UCLA on November 1.
“Perhaps most importantly are the culture changes we are making,” Knabe said. “For decades, many people came to our facilities because we were their only source for healthcare. Now, with many of those individuals eligible for coverage, we need to prove that our service is high-quality and patient-centered in order to maintain patients. This customer-driven system is a complete culture shift for us.”
As Knabe approaches the end of his term come 2016, he noted—as many do when they see the light at the end of the political career tunnel—the ever-present negativity that plagues dual-party politics.
“There is so much negativity in politics right now—on both sides of the aisle,” Knabe said. “We’re not immune to that at the County level; I’m not suggesting that. But some of what we see, particularly at the national level, is just plain silly. With so much negativity in politics, I fear we will lose a whole generation of young people interested in running for office or seeking administrative roles. Public service is a great career. There are few other jobs where you can really see the difference you are making in others’ lives. As my own public service career winds down, I am asked more and more about lessons learned and what advice I would give people entering the political arena. When you are asked this, it’s kind of like getting Lifetime Achievement awards—it really just means you’re old.”
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