Paul McIntosh is the Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties. For more, visit The County Voice.

It’s been said that citizens only care about their local government when the water stops flowing out of their faucet, they hit a pothole, or their garbage doesn’t get picked up. Other than that, they are unengaged and willfully unaware of what counties do on their behalf.

So let’s take a page from Mr. Capra and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and imagine what one day in the life of an average Californian would be like if some critical county services went away. This is not a budgetary scare story, just some food for thought:

  • In the morning, you’ll be using water to bathe or cook with. It may not be treated, or healthy to drink.
  • You probably also used the toilet. All that waste has to go somewhere; hope it’s not the same place as drinking water came from.
  • While driving to work the roads may or may not be marked appropriately, you’ll hit several potholes and hope people really stop at the intersection of two main arterial roads if there are no signs or lights.
  • You make it through the work day but on the way home you notice your gas gauge is low. But you just filled up two days ago? With no one to verify that the gas station pumps were accurately dispensing a gallon, you were shorted.
  • Finally you make it home and your spouse is in bed with some kind of flu bug, so are the kids and most of their friends at school are sick with this strange virus. You suddenly feel sick to your stomach. Then again it could be the water you drank this morning.

Granted these are exaggerations, but it underscores that every person in California, on any given day, is a beneficiary of county services. The water we drink, the roads we ride on, the flu immunization you receive, all are part of what the 58 Counties do for 38 million Californians.

Counties do a lot of things right, and even though they do their best to tell their positive stories, folks don’t always want to listen to what’s working well.

That’s why we are making an extra effort the week of April 19–23, 2010 to celebrate National County Government Month. CSAC will be tweeting, blogging and posting FaceBook information on county services, with a special daily focus on a service area, such as agriculture and natural resources, justice, transportation and health and human services.

In times such as these, it seems there may not be much to celebrate. But fundamentally, counties deliver the services that keep our society civilized, and it’s worth taking a little time to pause, reflect and be a little grateful of where we live, and what makes it so livable.

For more, visit The County Voice, a place where CSAC, county officials and stakeholders can voice their thoughts on governance and issues that impact California’s 58 counties.