EDITORIAL: First 5 of Fresno County has set the bar high

Residents should watch carefully as the Board of Supervisors contemplates a takeover of First 5 Fresno County, which uses tobacco tax money to see to it that children are born healthy and have the opportunity to reach their potential.

The fact is, First 5 Fresno County has set the bar high in operational efficiency. For example, administrative costs have been about 7% of budgets, and the benefit package (vacation, health insurance, pension contributions, etc.) for First 5 employees is less costly than it is for county employees.

First 5 Fresno County also has been a bulldog for children. In 2011, it teamed with First 5 commissions in Madera and Merced counties to win a court fight and stop a $1 billion grab from the state's early childhood programs by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers. First 5 Fresno County would have lost almost $17 million if Assembly Bill 99 had stood.

In opposing First 5's bid to construct a $15 million building to house its administrative staff and provide child care downtown, some supervisors have said that the money set aside for construction would mean less funding for children's services. These supervisors should be equally concerned about increased employee costs resulting in fewer children's services with a county takeover.

A county takeover would also fly in the face of recent board efforts to outsource services than can be performed more efficiently by the private sector. Finally, a county takeover would be an indictment of the supervisors themselves. They, after all, vet and appoint the nine commissioners who set policy and oversee the performance of First 5.

Thus far, the three supervisors opposing the downtown building have failed to present a single fact supporting their position. Instead, they have relied on one talking point that isn't true (the building is opulent!) to manufacture controversy where there is none.

Absent the presentation of facts by the supervisors to support their contentions that First 5 Fresno County is ineffective and that the downtown building doesn't pencil out for the benefit of children, one can only conclude that some supervisors have put the agency in their cross-hairs strictly for political reasons.