The countdown of my objections to the Extension merger continues. I’ve got a long way to go. As Franklin Roosevelt said during the 1936 Presidential campaign, “We have only just begun to fight.”
Extension proponents have tried to convince us that a merger will produce efficiencies and economies of scale. They seem to be laboring under the assumption that saying it often enough will make it so. But, that’s not the real world. I spent part of my professional career as a member of a team whose primary task was developing and implementing economies of scale and operational efficiencies. It was something we could never undertake in a willy-nilly fashion. Anything we developed had to be fully justified before it was implemented. We had to quantify personnel savings. There had to be demonstrable operational cost savings and they had to be significant. And, we had to develop a plan that would measurably improve service to internal and external customers. If/when upper management approved, the implementation had benchmarks to be re-measured at 30, 60, and 90 day intervals to ensure that what we’d meet our promised objectives.
The proposed Extension merger isn’t even remotely close to being an economy of scale, nor does it create efficiencies.
Extension has also claimed that the consolidated district would enable cooperative effort. I couldn’t believe they’d said when I first heard it, but they’ve said it more than once. About the only thing missing was the marketing slogan – “Consolidate to Cooperate.”
Is it true that it will take consolidation to produce cooperative effort? If so, what’s getting in the way of cooperation now? Distance? Good Lord, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone 136 years ago. I don’t believe we’ve so underfunded them they’ve got to resort to tin cans connected by miles and miles of string. They’ve even got computers to work with. And e-mail is this wonderful administrative tool that’s been around for a while.
I actually think more highly of Extension personnel. I believe they’ve got it in them to cooperate. If Extension leadership is saying it’s going to take consolidation to make it happen, they’ve got some really serious problems, problems that no amount of money will solve.
Some Extension proponents tout the benefits to the public, including volunteer income tax help, support in raising kids/parenting, Kansas PRIDE, etc. Now, who could be against that? I’m not really against those things, but there are already far better agencies involved in those things. The I.R.S itself provides free income tax support to taxpayers. So does our local chapter of the A.A.R.P. We’ve got plenty of family support professionals. We’ve got a lot of churches and plenty of competent pastors and support staff who provide outstanding support to families. The county is also blessed with a wealth of civic organizations who volunteer time and treasure to help their neighbors through difficult times, including Lions Club, Habitat for Humanity, Kiwanis, the Salvation Army, Sertoma, and so forth. There are a lot of caring people in Lyon County.
Extension also has been talking up its slate of youth activities. Those of us who are against the merger believe these things are great. But, keep in mind that these activities have been supported thanks to the generous allocation Lyon County has given our local Extension service. A no vote in the primary election wouldn’t change that. We’ve been generous. We’ll continue to be generous.
There’s something else to consider. As with other activities, there are other organizations here in Lyon County who support youth activities. A few months back Lyon Countians were graced with visits from Girl Scouts making their annual pitch. We love seeing them. I don’t know the names of the girls who visit you, but for Nancy and me it was Sidney Baldwin and Makayla Gray. Their marketing skills and charms seem to have grown exponentially over the years. By the time we’d placed and received our orders this year we had enough cookies to fill a cupboard to overflowing. We’re glad to do it. It’s our voluntary way of supporting wonderful youth activities.
One of the things we’re especially grateful for is the fact the Girls Scouts have never levied taxes against us. They learn. They market. They sell. They succeed.
Of course, it never would have come to this if the County Commissioners had listened to the people. When it came time to vote, Commissioner Martin said public opinion in his district was fifty-fifty. Commissioner Walters said opinion in hers was against the merger. Yet, they voted for the merger. The public might have understood if there was some moral reason for their doing so, but there wasn’t. It was politics at its very worst. There was nothing wrong with things as they had been. And, there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t stay that way.