The Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday to remove Supervisor Don Saylor as the board representative on First 5 Yolo Commission. While the move followed some discussion about a rotation of roles, some of which have been in place for years dating across tenures of supervisors, there is some indication that the move had more specific purposes.
Supervisor Oscar Villegas moved to remove Mr. Saylor both from the First 5 Yolo Commission and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments board of directors. These were the only recommended changes from the list that Supervisor Matt Rexroad put forward.
Supervisor Saylor pushed back on both moves, stating, “neither of them are good changes to make.” However, he noted that the SACOG move would be “extremely unwise” given that he had just been elected incoming chair of the board of directors, a position that would put Yolo County in a significant position of influence in one of the foremost land use agencies in the region.
While Mr. Saylor argued that there was significant turnover on First 5 Yolo, which will have four of its nine members turning over and is in the midst of a strategic planning process, Mr. Saylor stated, “I’m also aware that there is some concern about the work that I have done and I believe that the board has a need to have confidence in what happens in that arena.”
Supervisor Villegas quickly backed off the SACOG move when he recognized he lacked the votes. Supervisor Jim Provenza agreed that Supervisor Saylor should stay on as the SACOG representative.
Supervisor Rexroad pushed back against his colleague, Mr. Villegas. He argued that as a matter of historical consistency that board members often inherited assignments from their predecessors and gave them up only when they voluntarily exchanged them with colleagues.
He pressed the matter asking what Don Saylor had done at First 5 Yolo that was unsatisfactory?
Mr. Villegas had recused himself from the broader First 5 Yolo discussion earlier in the day due to a cited conflict. His wife, Katie Villegas, is executive director of the Yolo County Children’s Alliance, and the organization receives some of its funding from First 5.
When asked, Mr. Villegas responded, “I can’t answer that question … because I have a potential conflict … so the notion of me engaging in dialogue about going forward with a strategic plan has its issues for me.” He felt it was within his rights to weigh in on a representative, something that the county counsel appeared to sign on to.
Matt Rexroad turned to Duane Chamberlain, who seconded the motion to remove Don Saylor. Supervisor Chaimberlain simply answered, “I just think it’s good to change people around once in a while.”
Matt Rexroad quickly responded that it did not feel right to him to focus on Don Saylor. He defended the practice as “the way we’ve always done business in Yolo County.” And he noted that Supervisor Helen Thomson, who held Mr. Saylor’s seat for eight years prior, had served for that entire time on the First 5 Yolo Commission – and no one expressed concerns.
The question is whether these were simply publicly stated niceties by the three Supervisors, or whether it reflects deeper concerns.
First 5 has gone through serious hardship this year, with a 50% reduction in First 5 Yolo’s annual operating budget anticipated for the 2015 Strategic Plan duration. Based on that, Executive Director Julie Gallelo in her report noted, “not all of the goals and objectives outlined in the
Commission’s Strategic Framework could be funded.”
She writes, “Through consensus, Commissioners identified five goals, which fall within a funding range of $625,000 on the low end, to $925,000 on the high end. These goals are classified as Tier 1 level because they scored highest during the prioritization exercise.”
She added, “The Commission also identified three goals which “tied” for sixth place. These goals are classified as Tier 2 level and will be considered for funding if there is money remaining after allocating dollars to each Tier 1 goal.”
The elephant in the room is that Yolo County’s highly successful and well supported Foster Care program was among the funding that was pushed to second tier status.
Critics have pointed out questionable decisions by the First 5 Commission to spend down its fund reserves in the last several years.
The decision by First 5, a partner of the county to remove a vital and important program without notification to the board of supervisors has drawn the ire of many.
The finger has been pointed to Don Saylor for overseeing these decisions as well his failure to inform his board of those decisions. The board found out earlier this fall by happenstance when a key stake holder raised the issue of the funding cuts to the Foster Adopt program much to the surprise of the rest of his colleagues.
However, on Tuesday nobody would state that and the discussion coincides with a board retreat in which the issue of rotation of duties was raised. Nevertheless, the only two changes proposed were to Don Saylor’s duties and the only one that went forward was his removal from First 5.
Jim Provenza agreed to fill the seat with Don Saylor taking on the role as alternate.
Matt Rexroad and Don Saylor dissented on the 3-2 vote.
Supervisor Rexroad told the Vanguard this morning, “We have had a very collegial way of doing things during my 8 years on the board. This is a departure from that.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting