Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We're Funding the Department of Redundancy Department

Our new old Governor, Jerry Brown, has set out in an earnest effort to reduce expenses, saying services may have to be reduced to close the budget gap. As he combs through the budget line by line, he might want to turn a miser’s eye to the state’s plethora of agencies.

Prompted by an emailed list from an outraged friend, my own visit to www.ca.gov/CaSearch/Agencies.aspx, found a directory of nearly 400 state departments, bureaus, commissions, offices, and agencies at our disposal, and out of our pocketbooks.

Now we are a state of more than 33 million people. We make necessary and worthwhile demands on the State to facilitate our daily lives; and in turn, its services to us require agencies. But 400?! Remember, each one employs well-trained and cheerful staffs who receive paychecks, benefits, and pensions. They’re set up in buildings with lights, plumbing, copy machines, and HVAC. It’s a pricey operation.

In fairness, there must be some overlap in the listings. An office might encompass a department and a commission, representing the same entity, but listed separately. For example, the

• California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs,
• California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and the
• California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board.

At least we hope they are one and the same. Otherwise, the worst case scenario looms in the imagination. Each department sprang up in a different wing of the building. Each one ignorant of the other. Each with its own protocol, paperwork, personnel, and of course, budget.

Some boards, commissions and agencies could be combined:
• California Bureau of Automotive Repair,
• California Bureau of Electronics and Appliance Repair and the
• California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. (I know, this last one is a stretch, but really, where else would it fit?)

What about the California Political Reform Division and the California Pollution Control Financing Authority? Ok, I’m being flippant. But we do know that without reform, politics pollute.

Here’s a logical, money-saving combination: The California Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau and the California Office of Deaf Access. They’d probably be glad to make each other’s acquaintance.

For the pragmatic, let’s combine the California Department of Mental Health and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). At the very least, they should sit next door to each other. That way, after a day in line at the DMV, you could get the mental health support you’ll need.

Surely the following two have enough in common that they could share offices. Rename some forms, and voila! The California Division of Communicable Disease Control and the California Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control become the California Division for Control of Diseases You Catch at Work, or Somewhere Else.

Some of these agencies seem obsolete; others appear frivolous in their creation, and superfluous in their ongoing operation. To wit:
California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology --- What’s left for them to do?
California Acupuncture Board --- What’s the point? (Sorry.)
California Spatial Information Library --- Is that information about outer space, or parking lot design?
California Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine --- Stop!
California Committee on Dental Auxiliaries --- OMG.

In some cases, there exists no readily available evidence these agencies are doing their jobs:
California Prevention Services --- What exactly are they preventing? Nothing of note. We all can name things needing prevention that go unchecked in this state: litter and bad manners come to mind.
California State Legislative Portal --- We need a window on dysfunction?
California State Legislature --- Yeah, speechless.

The California Office of Binational Border Health must be pretty busy trying to figure out how to revamp our immigration procedures and policies. If not, they should go ahead and get started. I don’t recall hearing anything from them, ever.

The California Office of Public School Construction won’t have much to do in the next few years. Maybe they could lend a hand to Binational Border folks.

One agency appeared on my friend’s list, but not in the State’s directory of agencies: the California Opinion Unit. Darn! We could use an office like that. But I doubt the Governor wants to open the forum. Not enough room in the inbox.

He’d have to create a companion agency: the Office of the California Department for the Commission on Opinion Response – Unit.

And if he did, he’d need to hire.