In 1963, California's projected explosive growth caused the Legislature to create Local Agency Formation Commissions in each county to help coordinate the coming tsunami of both people and governments while protecting agriculture and open space.
Then, 21 years later, the Legislature wisely added the authority to dissolve or consolidate local governmental districts that had grown outdated or obsolete. Six years after that, lawmakers added the performing of "Municipal Service Reports," a move often portrayed as making LAFCOs the local government watchdog.
But, according to a recently released grand jury report, Contra Costa's LAFCO in the past has more resembled a sleepy hound curled up on the couch than a watchdog.
The report cites repeated cases of LAFCO's lethargic action on matters such as three hospital districts that had lost their original responsibilities but remained operating at taxpayer expense, or a park and recreation district that couldn't generate enough community interest to convince anyone to run for its board, or the agency's initial reluctance to generate MSRs despite acknowledging that as many as six revenue-producing districts might need to be dissolved.
The good news is that the report acknowledges LAFCO has become much more proactive in its review and evaluation of agencies. But the grand jury recommended improvement in the depth and breadth of those reviews as well as urging it to become more assertive, transparent and vocal.
LAFCO Executive Director Lou Ann Texeira said the report offers LAFCO's board an opportunity to educate the people about the agency's authority as well as its practical limitations and that her board would file the required response by the July 30 deadline. We anxiously await that education.