He was a moneyman, not a health and human services type.
But the idea of becoming the founding Executive Director of Children and Families Commission of Orange County (CFCOC) and starting an organization from scratch offered its own fulfillment.
So why is it that Ruane, who has led a fiscally thriving organization, is defending his work from possible thieving hands?
Well, Ruane – the former Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the County of Orange (1996-2000) and Director of OC Environmental Management Agency (1989-96) – may have done too well.
“We’re trying to support our prudent fiscal management at a time at the state level where they are hawking the jewelry and fine china,” Ruane said.
The CFCOC – providing health, education and development services to children and their families – is praised for its operation and financial management from local organizations including the OC Grand Jury and the OC Taxpayers Association.
The organization attains its funding through Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent sales tax on tobacco products, with 80 percent of revenues being directed to county commissions promoting development of children. The amount of funds given to each commission is based on each county’s birth rate and Orange County has the second highest birth rate in California.
After an overwhelming victory against Proposition 1D in the spring, which threatened to reallocate the CFCOC’s funds to the state’s general fund, the organization is still battling resentment that there are funds sitting in accounts.
Rather than applaud the organizations financial responsibility, opposition is calling for the taking of these funds that they call “surplus.”
“The ‘surpluses’ referenced are actually funds committed to specific future uses,” Ruane said. “It’s akin to calling money parents put into their child’s college savings account ‘surplus’ funds because it hasn’t been spent yet.”
Ruane isn’t defensive about the fact that the CFCOC hasn’t spent every dime taken from a declining revenue source. He works on a 10-year financial plan despite today’s environment that puts pressure to simply keep patching things up.
“In today’s climate, people aren’t looking at tomorrow,” Ruane said. “Instead, it’s our job to make sure programs are doing great to make sure they are here two to three years from now.”
Political agendas and a sense of desperation continue to lead an effort to reallocate funds. While other agencies are simply trying to maintain services without raising taxes, organizations like CFCOC become an easy target.
“I think its unfortunate,” Ruane said. “If the state of California embraced the fiscal practices that we have, I think there still would have been a major disruption, but it would not have been as dramatic.
“To be criticized for making sure we can support what we started is not a good principal.”
Ruane is still a moneyman. That’s his experience. He has won plaudits for his proficiency in fiscal management – not health and human services.
It makes the case for putting the right person in the big seat. Ruane has a track record of local government efficiency.
When a new initiative launches, types like Ruane should be brought in to do the job. City Managers, County Executives and Special District Administration – Specialty programs such as CFCOC require strong management, supported by experts in the area of specialty.
That’s the core of local government. It’s a new era of public management.
And when these local government pros do well running their business, they shouldn’t have that taken away just because someone else can’t do the same.
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