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Friday, May 6, 2016

Prudent oversight or micro managing?

Monday, November 12, 2012

"The liberals are asking us to give Obama time. We agree...and think 25 to life would be appropriate." (Jay Leno)

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The article "Supervisors question efficiency of conservation trips" has generated a lot of conversation. Written by Amy Erickson (October 31, 2012, Le Mars Daily Sentinel), the news story concerned criticism by Supervisors Craig Anderson and Mark Loutsch, and questioning by Jim Henrich, of a Conservation Board program.

I must first acknowledge that the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has, for many years, been a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Also, from my statewide vantage point, the Plymouth County Conservation Board (CCB), and director Dennis Sohl are very well thought of. It hasn't been easy to provide recreation and conservation in an agricultural county without a lake!

Why the noticeable irritation shown by some BOS members toward the CCB? Maybe the answer is the age-old complaint of micro-management. Being a long-time micro manager (reformed!), I understand the temptation but I can also tell them that it is not good government. In their zeal to protect the taxpayers from a relatively minor expenditure, the BOS may be inhibiting a good program.

A wise boss once told me to hire good people and let them do their job. If they mess up, don't complain, talk to them privately and try to help them improve.

The Super's (some of them) current complaint is that while trip participants are charged a fee, it does not cover the wages of the Conservation staff. That is an age-old question, related to user fees. Related, should the Fire Chief's or the Sheriff's salary be charged to a small group he works with to promote their safety? Of course not.

It is unlikely that any Supervisor has the mindset, the time, or the knowledge to manage and enhance the conservation program. They never have, and that is the very reason that Conservation Boards were created. Supervisors are generalists, but specialist governance is necessary to protect and mature specialties such as the arts, conservation, recreation, law enforcement, and health.

A broad range of recreational and conservation offerings are essential to quality of life and to economic development. Those efforts are essential to having a healthier citizenry. A county wide support group should be formed to encourage understanding of the needs.

Such trips should not be restricted to within the county, or even to NW Iowa, but it would be wise to seek less expensive trips unless sponsorships become a part of the mix. The Supers, with their clout, could help the CCB convince businesses or organizations to partially subsidize the trips. On completion, the participants should share their experiences with a broad range of youth and adult groups.

CCB's in general, and Ply Co specifically, have by law assumed many responsibilities formerly expected of the Department of Natural Resources. This has resulted in greater opportunities being made available to more people than ever before. Management decisions are now made closer to home -- as it should be. And, by a board more informed than the Supers - also as it should be.

Some of us old fogies are reluctant to spend money on stuff we do not use. Even schools, for heaven's sake! But, we must realize that younger generations have more free time on their hands and are not likely to pursue the same leisure time activities as we did. Frisbee golf anyone? Dog Parks? Geocaching?

A county wide support group should be formed. A biker/bunch, a canoe/cadre, a hiker/handful can raise their voices and sometimes officials listen, but at least 90% of taxpayers don't take part in those particular activities. Many in that 90% complain that bike trails (just a for instance) are not necessary. "In these times," is often the bogus reason given.

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After 17 hours as an election official Tuesday, and having to travel to eastern Iowa to work Wednesday, plus an early deadline, I'll reserve most of my comments on the election for another column.

However, I must express my disappointment with the election. I'm feeling lonely in the middle between extremists, both Conservative and Liberal.

Remembering Elvin Lippke of Merrill, a very dedicated Conservation Board member for 24 years, I am Don Paulin, 2carpenterdon@gmail.com, 7557 30th Av, Norwalk, IA 50211 - 515-201-7236

By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That


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