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Editorial: Do you believe in magic? Looks like San Juan County does.

  • Written by Sharon Kivisto

Exactly how is reducing staffing by 20 percent going to result in the same amount of county government services? There's quite a bit of magical thinking in the county's explanation of how shortening employees' work week to four days will pan out. Managers, law enforcement, courts, are not included in the move. 


The county is having difficulty finding new employees.  The county's demographics combined with ageism don't bode well for finding staff. Unaffordable housing and the high cost of living in the islands also play a part. 

Most people would probably prefer a four-day work week especially if they continued receiving their five-day pay. But I doubt most people will buy the county's line that by reducing the work week 8 hours, it is effectively giving the employee a sizeable increase in hourly wages. More hours off with the same size paycheck doesn't help with the utility bill or groceries. It does free up time to take on another job. 

More magical thinking is needed to convince the public that the same amount of work can and will be done in the shorter hours. How the backlog of permits will be reduced when the already short staff has their hours reduced by 20 percent, is going to be fascinating to see. In order to do more with less, it would probably be more productive to fix the clunky county code. 

A four-day work week will likely be the standard in the not too distant future. It will ease challenges families have with child care, and give everyone more flexibility in meeting their needs. But it is not a magical solution to problems we face now especially the high cost of housing and living in the islands.

And let's not fool ourselves into believing that county employees can provide more with less.