Alyssa Collins
Alyssa Collins
Project Assistant; CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow

How Many Hats Does it Take to Implement an Ordinance? 

When was the last time you had to wear multiple hats in order to get even a simple project done? Whether it be work or home life, most of us have found ourselves in a situation where we had to wear multiple hats, take on multiple responsibilities, in order to get something done right. When these instances come up, it’s easy to feel overloaded with responsibility and increasingly overwhelmed. Recently, I became aware that this is the state in which many local government employees spend their working lives, attempting to implement state goals and requirements while also keeping their day-to-day operations afloat.

COMM AC Blog Image 2016 06Last month I attended a training workshop in Marysville that I had been planning since January as part of my CivicSpark work. The workshop’s purpose was to dive into the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO), which had major revisions to it last year via Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-29-15, laying out water efficiency standards for new and retrofitted landscapes.. Professionals from the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the Irrigation Association, Kearns & West Consulting, and the City of West Sacramento came to the workshop to speak on their experience with the major updates and vital components of the MWELO. The goal of the workshop was to help participants learn how to read landscape plans through the lens of MWELO.

This training was held to benefit the Yuba County Community Development and Services Agency, which like many other local government agencies in the Sierra and North Sacramento Valley region, is struggling to implement the MWELO mandates into their own landscape planning. Many other jurisdictions all over the northern part of the state attended including Butte County Department of Development Services, City of Yuba City, Town of Paradise, and the City of Oroville. Participants consisted of planners, public works staff, inspectors, and plans examiners.

After observing the workshop, my main takeaway was that many jurisdictions are not only struggling with this particular ordinance, rather there is an ongoing struggle playing the game of catch-up, forcing government employees to wear multiple hats due to a lack of staff to handle the implementation and enforcement of new codes and ordinances looking to address California’s climate change goals.

So why isn’t more capacity built into government offices? Why do they have to wear multiple hats? Whether it be lack of funding, inadequate access to resources and staff, or one of the many other issues that can arise in rural jurisdictions, the fact is local governments are struggling on their own.

This realization has given me a much bigger appreciation for the work of CivicSpark, the Local Government Commission, and Sierra Business Council. It wasn’t until hearing first hand from local government staff themselves that they have no choice but to wear multiple hats and have been overloaded with responsibility and expectations, did I really understand how vital the roles LGC, SBC, CivicSpark, and other organizations play. Whether it’s holding trainings such as this, conducting greenhouse gas inventories, or implementing Energy Action Plans; it is extremely valuable work and is something to be proud of.

I tip my hat today, both to the local rural government employees who work their respective hinnies off and to the organizations who support them by doing the same.