Another View: Special districts equal better democracy

A recent editorial “Overabundance of democracy” (Sept. 15) by The Sacramento Bee seemed to confuse democracy with bureaucracy.

We agree that transparent and accountable government is important, but disagree that small local government is bad democracy. There is no more accessible democracy than special districts.

Large government, often disconnected from its local residents, is hindered by competing interests. In contrast, special districts are community and service focused.

Local communities identified a need and voted for a localized form of government – special districts – to deliver a focused and specialized service. Voters decided on quality over quantity.

Special districts are community based and serve 24/7: from the fire district that responds to our emergencies; to water districts that provide clean potable water to our homes, and educate our children on water conservation; to community services and park districts that run the local youth leagues and operate our community and senior centers.

Californians are able to count on special districts for the core services they depend on; voters interact with them daily and play an integral role in their operation and oversight. When something changes or goes wrong, we all take notice.

If a local community center reduced its hours, seniors and parents would notice. If water no longer flowed through our faucet, families and businesses would notice. And if highly trained firefighters did not respond in moments to our call for help, we would all take notice.

Our mission is to serve the communities we represent and to be accountable and transparent in how projects are built and how funds are allocated. Any new taxes or fees must include public and community participation. Furthermore, special districts comply with some of the most rigorous auditing and reporting standards of any agency.

They are held to the same open government and community engagement laws as other types of local government. State law requires special districts submit to regular audits, performed by a county auditor or a certified public accountant, and to disclose their financials and the full compensation of all staff and board members. This information is openly and publicly published on the State controller’s website.

Unlike large bureaucracies that weigh down democracy, special districts directly provide needed services, work closest to the community and are the most accessible form of democracy.