Service Redesign gets edgy

inyosups4_15Inyo County has big money problems. The tensions rose abruptly during a workshop when department heads differed over saving General Fund money and impacting people.

Health and Human Services officials made a presentation to the Supervisors on how some programs could be re-organized to save dollars. It all started with Assistant Health and Human Services Director Linda Benson. She introduced Anna Scott of Health and Human Services who described a possible plan for Toiyabe Indian Health Services to pick up some of the duties and costs related to jail inmates and medical needs.

Officials said jail inmate medical costs have the potential to climb very high, so plans to keep the lid on that kind of risk to the General Fund would make sense. Ms. Scott described Toiyabe as “a willing partner.”

Another area of potential savings, according to Ms. Scott, would come in the Public Administrator/ Public Guardian department. If the position of Deputy Public Administrator were to become vacant, that position might be eliminated for a savings of $83,000. Scott said there are other ways to restructure the Public Guardian portion of the department, transferring some of those duties to Social Services workers in Health and Human Services. Ms. Scott said this kind of scenario works in other counties and saves General Fund money.

Scott explained that a nurse will be hired soon and take over some of the Social Services employees’ work to free them up to handle Public Guardian work. The description of this trading of jobs got complicated. Supervisors’ questioned the health officials.

Patricia Barton, the elected Public Administrator/ Public Guardian, then said, “This whole scenario is more complicated than is being presented, with all due respect.” She said her department case manages on the spot. Things would be different under Health and Human Services. Said Barton, “There needs to be more information presented. It’s not just a fiscal consideration.”

County Administrator Kevin Carunchio spoke up abruptly and said a workshop on Barton’s caseload needs to be scheduled for next week. He said it was promised four months ago. Carunchio said the issue is reducing a General Fund position and having it paid for in the Health Department. Said Carunchio, “There’s some sandbagging going on here.” Ms. Barton apologized if he thought she was “sandbagging.” Said Barton, “I’m not offering resistance. I’m offering caution.”

Director of Health and Human Services, Jean Turner, said she shared Patricia Barton’s words of caution. She assured Barton that her department is not looking for more work. Turner said she was asked to look for ways to save General Fund money, and the State allows her department to spend money on Public Guardian duties within Health and Human Services.

Barton repeated that the proposal needs to be looked at in more depth. She said there are fiscal concerns but it needs to make sense.


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23 Responses to Service Redesign gets edgy

  1. ram May 28, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    They need to cut service to cover the $650,000 in raises..

  2. Reality Check May 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    Welcome to the new reality. If unemployment numbers were calculated the same way as in 1993, real unemployment would be at 23%. That is a depression.

    The endless money printing cannot go on forever. At some point the music will stop and there will not be enough chairs to go around.

    • Steve May 28, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

      Don’t forget the phony inflation numbers the government keeps reporting. This is really sad, I remember communist nations use to report phony numbers regard economic growth and people in the west used to laugh at the data; now it looks like we are following the in same footstep.

    • Desert Tortoise May 29, 2014 at 7:09 am #

      Not true. The method for calculating the unemployment rate has not changed. The argument Jack Welch, formerly of the BLS, is advancing is that the way the unemployment rate is calculated, based on the number of people actually looking for work, misses those who have given up and stopped looking. Welch is advancing the idea that what should be looked at is the labor force participation rate, the proportion of the total population that is employed. But consider that among those not participating in the labor force but counted in the population are children, full time college students, stay at home spouses, retirees and the disabled.

      The unemployment rate measures those over age 16 who are employable (meaning not disabled or full time students for example) and actively looking for a job but are unable to find one. The actual formula used is:

      Unemployment rate = number unemployed/total labor force.

      That calculation has not changed in many decades. I am a practicing economist btw.

      The argument regarding the unemployment rate vs the labor force participation rate is nothing new either. It was a bone of contention as far back as the Nixon era “stagflation” days and I remember it well.

      The argument boils down to one side that argues those who have stopped looking for work are not counted among the unemployed (according to the letter of the definition of who is counted among the unemployed, those not seeking work would not be in that group) while others want to put them into the calculation. That argument, too, is many decades old and probably will never be fully settled.

      • You have got to be kidding May 29, 2014 at 8:03 am #

        How do you figure that those that are still unemployed don’t count? In December long term unemployment expired and it effected 2.4 million plus people that were actively seeking employment thus the reason they were still collecting their benefits. You and I both know that you have to prove you are seeking employment for the checks to continue. There are also 70,000 citizens a month that can be added to these numbers because the current time frames for their benefits have expired. These people are unemployed and have not stop seeking employment, yet they are not counted in the unemployment numbers.

        They are not students, children, stay at home spouses, retirees, or disabled! They don’t have a job or benefits and the government is doing nothing about it and they don’t want to do anything about it because guess what? Obama’s unemployment numbers will go up by a huge margin. It is all just smoke and mirrors.

        • Ken Warner May 29, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

          What would you have “The Government” do? You don’t want unemployed people getting government jobs do you. And Obama tried to get the GOP to extend unemployment benefits and the House refused to pass a bill that the Senate had sent to them.

          But go ahead — blame Obama. That’s the way to make things better.

        • Desert Tortoise May 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

          Did you bother to read and understand what I wrote? I explained it fully. The definition of being unemployed requires you to be both employable and looking for work. If you stop looking, you are no longer counted among the unemployed.

          I think I also explained that some would rather measure the labor participation rate, and I explained that this is not such a good measure because it would include everyone not working, for many reasons that have nothing to do with the unemployment rate, such as disability, being a full time student or being a full time stay at home spouse.

          I believe I also stated that this dispute has been going on in economic circles since the Nixon stagflation era. It is not a new argument and it gets trotted out during every economic recovery. I also think I mentioned that there is probably no solution that will make everyone happy and the dispute will go on long past our grandchildrens lives.

      • Steve May 29, 2014 at 8:28 am #

        So are you telling me there is no inflation?

        • Desert Tortoise May 29, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

          Did I say that anywhere? No, I did not.

          • Steve May 30, 2014 at 9:19 am #

            So DT, if the Government is lying to us about inflation what is stopping them from reporting false employment numbers. Also since we are doing to well on the employment side why is the Federal Reserve still keeping rates so low and still printing 65 billion a month? Please tell us DT since you are a practicing economist.

        • Desert Tortoise May 30, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

          I guess I am not following your argument regarding inflation. I didn’t say anything one way or the other about it. I only talked about the unemployment rate.

          If you want to understand what the Fed is cryptically calling “Quantitative Easing” you have to understand what the money supply and the velocity of money have been doing since. The amount of money in the money supply affects the inflation rate, and the velocity of money, a measure of how often money changes hands, also affects the inflation rate. In addition, they both have a major effect on GDP. Velocity has been on a steady decline since around 2000. This tends to reduce inflation and reduce GDP growth.

          The big deal were changes in the money supply. Starting in 2006 the Fed stopped reporting M3, which is the broadest measure of the money supply. Private economists were able to calculate M3 and report it despite the Fed. It is not hard to do as the data underlying it is public. What you will see if you type “Money supply M3” into your browser and look at some of the data out there is that in 2008 M3 went into a free fall, and towards the end of 2009 the money supply went into an absolute decline.

          The Fed and Treasury have not told the story of the massive decline in the money supply, on the order of $16-$20 trillion, yes trillion in 2008-2009 alone that accompanied the decline in M3. A deflation of that magnitude left unchecked would have destroyed everything we own and cherish.
          If adding money to an economy during a period of GDP growth leads to inflation, which seems to be your fear, what happens when money is withdrawn from an economy during a period of GDP decline? DE-flation, an overall decline in wages and prices. The only problem with this is that outstanding loan balances are not similarly reduced. Workers make less and business incomes decline during a deflation but not their debt. At some point incomes and reveunes, even in the face of declinging prices and wages, are not enough for workers and businesses to service their debts. When that point is reached, you have mass bankruptcy, mass unemployment, and human misery rivaled only by war. We dodged that bullet. TARP and QE put money back into the money supply where it was hemhorraging. It didn’t stimulate growth, all it did was plug the flood of money leaving the economy as those real estate backed bonds became worthless, and business went out of business or lost value as stock prices crashed. That nuked pretty much every mutual fund and the snowball was rolling fast.

          Even today we face deflationary pressures. Now you will see the more narrow measure of the money supply,, M1 in decline. Money is leaving the economy so adding some does not threaten inflation. In fact failing to do so risks the nation falling back into a deflationary spiral. It is unfortunate that the US press and the Fed have not told this story but it has been well covered in the British press, since big deflationary pressures here threaten all economies to greater or lesser degrees.

      • Reality Check May 29, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

        Keep drinking the government Koolaid DT. Reality is going to hit you like a freight train!

        • Desert Tortoise May 30, 2014 at 6:53 am #

          It is nobody’s koolaid. I’m a professional economist. This is how the unemployed are defined, not just in the US but everywhere in the world. Economics doesn’t change just because you cross national borders.

          The definition matters because it has to be well understood and consistent over time. If you relax the definition to include people not actively seeking a job, then defining who is and who is not unemployed becomes ambiguous. This argument has been going on, as I stated earlier, since the Nixon era. It is nothing new. But economists want who is defined as “unemployed” to be unambiguous so they can collect data that is unambiguous.

          Here is the problem. If someone stops looking for work, right now we remove them from the ranks of who meets the definition of being “unemployed”. If we (by “we” I mean economists) begin to include those who are no longer seeking work among the unemployed, where do you draw the new line? I am not saying you are out of your mind or anything making your case because those of us in economics have these same arguments. But there has to be a definition and it has to be very clear, and this is the one we have been using for as long as I have been involved in economics, and long before that.

          • Reality Check May 30, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

            Soooo… You are a professional economist who is a truck driver. Paul Krugman must have been your mentor.

          • Desert Tortoise May 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

            I paid for grad school driving gasoline tank trucks. I took one class per semester and worked full time while living alone. It required four years to accomplish this. I paid cash each semester, graduated debt free with money in the bank. Driving trucks put a roof over my head and food on the table for a few years afterwards too. It was an awful way to make a living, but still better than graduating at age 40 with no job and a student loan to pay off.

        • The Aggressive Progressive May 30, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

          Here’s a reality check to those studying economics;

          “those out there who talk about a green economy or the like, as if though there is such a thing that could possibly exist in this system, posing solutions within this structural order, such as renewable energies, energy credits, carbon footprints or stuff of alike, they are not understanding what is actually at work here, you can not have a true green or even close to whatever you consider a sustainable economy in this market model of economics, it is technically impossible, the system would FAIL, if we ever wanted to operate on a truly technically sustainable level, for the system is fueled by the exact opposite set of mechanics”

          -Peter Joseph- (reflections on a world gone mad)

          Oh what, climate change? but we must reinforce a system that looks at our MotherEarth as a inventory of goods so we can create jobs!…

          • Desert Tortoise May 30, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

            Ponder this, pollution is the result of ambiguous property rights. Who owns the air and the water? Pollution is a cost of production like labor and materials. If rights to air, water and other objects of pollution were well defined and those rights legally enforceable, the owners could charge firms that pollute the full cost of their polluting activities, and then full cost of pollution would be born by the polluter and the polluters customers. As it stands now, those who are forced to suffer pollution of their air, water, land, food supply, etc., are paying part of the operating costs of the polluting firm. In economic terms it acts just like a subsidy, those suffering from pollution pay the polluting firm part of the production cost. This artificially lessens the cost of production and thus the price. Lower prices mean more buyers and over-production of the good who’s production causes the pollution. If the polluting firm were forced to pay the costs of pollution, it would have to charge a higher price reflecting the full cost of production, charge a higher price and thus sell less at that higher price. This is the economically efficient price and quantity. Unregulated pollution represents a grave market distortion. I know that statement will enrage some here, so have at it.

          • MajorTom May 31, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

            And I would add to DT’s post, that it is not that difficult to put an appropriate cost on pollution. Although we can’t individually collect a charge for someone polluting our air, through our government we can do so by putting taxes on pollution. A carbon tax would put a real cost on putting carbon in the air, and the market would adjust accordingly. If the price of carbon approached the cost it imposes on all of us through carbon pollution, everyone would be motivated to reduce their use of it in the manner that makes sense for each. Whole new industries would arise as a result. Same with other pollutants. Not only that, we could reduce harmful taxes that punish people for making money or owning property and use a little of the income to maintain government services.

          • Eastside Dweller May 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

            Desert Tortoise,
            These unquantified costs are ones that you ignore or dismiss when you argue that rural infrastructure such as electrical service is subsidized “welfare”, and when you argue that solar plants in Owens Valley are no big deal. Cities and companies have become rich with the use of rural resources such as water, minerals and timber without having to pay all the costs that rural communities bear. Who is subsidizing who is debatable when all costs are considered. Thus one can consider such things as electrical service and viewshed as just compensation we receive in the Eastern Sierra for the costs we bear for water, mineral and other resource extraction.

  3. Bone May 30, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    You are all a bunch of idiots that cannot stay on subject. I recomend you use the services of mental health and get off your computer. Get a life.

  4. Inyoite May 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Patricia Barton is a dedicated elected public official. Her duties include helping the most vulnerable among us – the elderly who are unable to care for themselves. Transferring her duties to a bureaucratic department (HHS) is not a good idea. That was tried once before and it was a failure.
    Once again it seems like the ones without a voice are going to be affected most by these “service redesigns” which were brought on in part by the big “equity” pay increases and the other Inyo County salary increases. And, it doesn’t seem to end. Look at items #13 (cutting positions) and #14 (pay increases) on this Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s agenda. None of it makes sense.

  5. Pedro May 30, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Will you merry me?!

  6. Philip Anaya May 31, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    Some of us have gifts that can be shared . DT has a vision and an understanding of economic minutiae that require abstract thinking on a level that is beyond my abilities . The brotherhood of Ignacio is challenged by the details of dynamic economic forces that are constantly played and manipulated by individuals, who can afford the best legal minds to keep themselves one step ahead of laws and their enforcement . Thank You DT for your attempts to share your knowledge. Helicopters and fuel trucks require attention to the details and check lists that you and others evolved and complied to all our benefit.
    Getting back to the subject of service redesign. For what I experienced lately going to the Landfill with the household waste , leaves , grass clippings, a branch or two off the tree ,some construction /demo debris there is this practical side of the challenges of service redesign. “Less service for more expense” is usually a significant change . You need a complete and broad scoped public relations /education program to sell $50.00 a cubic yard for a mixed load when the immediate and past practices allowed a more reasonable economic expense . The immediate economical solution to the fees is to dump the load in the Valley somewhere, talk about adventure trails . The true economic consequences of enforcement and of cleanup of the illegal dump sites are not always a considered part of a economic political redesign of services.
    Whenever there is greater expense to a population for services, nine times out of ten it is all about a redistribution of the financial allocations that never ever really change. Seniors and Landfill expenses just happen to be on the current hit list and are not worthy of investment into the future expenses. After all, are they all nothing but trash, worthy of some kind of waste management?
    The County of Inyo has only a small percentage of private lands to assess for revenue. We should have the most aggressive Grant Fund Department in the USA. The Feds, the State and the private sector provide funds. We provide a environment ,services ,resources to the Nation and we should be supported by our Nations collective interest to be economically viable in our limited needs for service redesign. Our local Social Service programs should not be bearing the burden for the reallocation of this nations wealth . A balance is what we need to achieve in all things Inyo.


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