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California Senate OKs Jackson Appointment

July 3, 2013 by · Comments Off on California Senate OKs Jackson Appointment 

Anthony Jackson

The California State Senate on Monday (July 1) confirmed retired Marine Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson of Fallbrook as state parks chief, easily overriding complaints from some Republicans that he sidestepped controversies involving a proposed toll road and protections for the popular Trestles surfing spot near San Onofre State Beach.

“This gentleman came in to lead the department during some of its roughest and most publicly difficult times,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat who championed his appointment.

Not all Republicans were convinced, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Lake Forest, accused Jackson of neglecting his duty by not intervening to prevent a special historic preservation designation for Trestles despite objections from the Marines. Officials at Camp Pendleton said such a move would compromise military readiness by interfering with training.

In turn, that threatens the renewal of the San Onofre State Beach lease with the Marines when it expires in 2021, Walters warned.

“Now more than ever we need the leadership in the parks department — something that Gen. Jackson has failed to provide,” she said.

Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, said Jackson should have stepped in for another reason: the historic designation will be used as a tool to block the construction of the proposed State Route 241 toll road toward I-5 and San Onofre.

Advocates say a toll road is needed to relieve congestion and assure motorists of an alternative escape route in the case of an emergency, such as an earthquake.

“By taking that action, this nominee has effectively made it almost impossible for this to occur,” Wyland said. “It is utterly irresponsible. It ignores the need for a vast community.”

Jackson had his defenders, even among Republicans.

In a statement after the vote, Sen. Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa, called Jackson “well-qualified,” citing his 36 years of military service, much of which was in command roles.

During the floor debate, Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said Jackson has proved himself. “He has turned things around. Morale is up … He has a love of parks. He has made great things happen.”

The vote was 28-4.

Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Jackson in November to run a Department of Parks and Recreation besieged by scandal. Department officials had hidden money at a time when budget cuts were threatening to shutter parks. There were also reports of paycheck padding and other financial mismanagement.

Jackson has drawn widespread praise for connecting with divergent park users, especially members of the Off-Highway Vehicle community. They spoke in his favor at an earlier committee hearing.

Jackson did not issue any formal reaction to Monday’s vote. But in an earlier interview and testimony, he explained his positions on San Onofre.

Jackson testified that he could not take action because he was advised by the state’s attorney that he should recuse himself. As former commander of Camp Pendleton he had previously been involved in decisions regarding the toll road and historic designation for Trestles. Today, he is in a different role, and represents the governor.

Jackson also said he did not feel it was the role of the parks director to intervene since the historical preservation commission was appointed by the governor and is supposed to act independently.

“You don’t want a director telling a commission what should be on their agenda,” he said.

Jackson signaled he would now oppose any toll road that threatened the park and its accompanying San Mateo campground.

“My job is to preserve and protect California State Parks for future generations,” Jackson said.

Jackson oversees about 280 parks in the system, spanning 1.4 million acres of coast, forests and mountains. He oversees a budget of $574 million.

Jackson’s salary is $150,112 a year.

 

Jackson Update: California State Park Status

July 2, 2013 by · Comments Off on Jackson Update: California State Park Status 

Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson

California’s beloved state parks have been in the news in recent months but not always in a good way, KPBS Radio, San Diego, reported.

Last year, the public learned that state park officials were keeping millions of dollars in surplus funds, even when state budget cuts threatened to close 70 parks.

Since that time, there’s been a change at the top and a retired Marine general from Fallbrook, Calif., has been named to head the agency.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson is hoping to bring big changes to the way the state parks are managed.

Click here to listen to the 20-minute interview.

Click here to read a transcript of the interview.

 

California State Park Action Plan Issued

March 19, 2013 by · Comments Off on California State Park Action Plan Issued 

Anthony Jackson pledges to restore faith in California state parks.

Anthony Jackson, newly appointed director of the California State Parks, has issued a strategic action plan for 2013-2014.

The introduction to that plan follows. Click here to read the entire report.

Purpose

The past few months have been challenging to California State Parks, but they have been a catalyst for positive change. The crises we are going through do not define us, but they will help us move forward. Let me assure you that moving forward is not a rhetorical statement, but an opportunity and a responsibility for all of us. As I enter my first full year as the 19th Director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, I introduce you to our Department’s Strategic Action Plan. This plan will help set the direction for our actions over the next two years, while we develop a long-term plan for stewarding California’s park system in and through the 21st century.

Over the next year we will lay the foundation for the long-term vision and plan that will ensure a vibrant and sustainable State Park System. Working with State Park employees, the Natural Resources Agency, and the public, and with guidance from the Legislature, we will create a public process, directed by an independent task force comprised of members known for their intellect, integrity, experience, and commitment to the common good. This planning process will result in a broadly supported, innovative, fiscally sound long-term plan we will implement immediately. This process will enable us to explore new and better means of carrying out our mission and stewarding the resources in our charge.

Right now, California State Parks has all the pieces, expertise, passion and commitment to be the best. My goal is to connect those pieces, so that together, we can become a more sophisticated entity from the inside out. How do we do that? In simple terms, we get back to the basics and our mission. We move away from the 20th-century construct and mentality that has inherently hindered our Department. We also set goals and strategies to grow, improve, inspire, connect, and make California State Parks the example to follow, not just in the nation, but the world.

Goals

In this Strategic Action Plan, I have identified broad goals and objectives that capture an array of actions to get us on the right track. From this plan, it is imperative for our units to work in tandem to identify specific tasks and tactics to be achieved within this year. Thus, this also could be considered a work plan that needs fleshing out. Our goals are to:

1. Restore public trust and accountability.

2. Protect and preserve resources and facilities in the existing State Park System.

3. Maintain the cleanest park facilities and restrooms in the country.

4. Connect people to California’s State Park System.

5. Build the foundation for a sustainable future.

The actions needed to accomplish these goals will inspire confidence among our partners and the public that the people’s natural, cultural and financial resources are expertly managed. To that end, it is each and every State Parks employee and volunteer’s responsibility to read and understand this Strategic Action Plan. Leaders at every level will issue implementing directives. However, all employees have a responsibility to fully support and aggressively implement the intent of this plan. We are all partners in this Brilliance in the Basics plan.

 

Calif. State Park Director Rebuilding Trust

February 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on Calif. State Park Director Rebuilding Trust 

Anthony Jackson

The new director of the state agency that oversees the most beautiful and historic places in California vowed Tuesday (Feb. 19) to restore the public’s trust diminished last summer by revelations of financial mismanagement.

After months of scrutinizing problems at the Department of Parks and Recreation, the joint legislative audit committee grilled the director and state accountants to determine why a secret fund held millions of dollars even as 70 parks were targeted for closure, the Fresno Bee reported.

“We acknowledge that unfortunate and improper actions occurred and need to be fixed,” said Anthony Jackson, a retired Marine Corps major general tapped by Gov. Jerry Brown late last year to turn around the beleaguered department.

Jackson said the department now has a new leadership team in place.

The discovery of the secret $54 million fund was a public relations debacle that came as dozens of volunteer groups were scrambling to raise private funds and form partnerships to keep open most of the parks on the closure list.

Investigations led the state’s auditor, controller and department of finance to other management problems, including the fact that decisions were made to close budget gaps without knowing the cost of operating the targeted parks.

Communities across the state depend on visitors to the state’s 278 parks to help sustain local economies. Some lawmakers were angry last summer when they couldn’t explain to constituents why parks their districts were targeted.

“State agencies simply don’t have the right to choose which funds they want to disclose,” said Assembly member and audit committee chair Adam Gray, D-Merced. “It is every department’s responsibility to be transparent about how they spend taxpayer money.”

Audits and investigations ordered by the legislature and governor’s office showed that former department heads hid up to $20 million in a State Parks and Recreation Fund and another $34 million in an off-highway vehicle fund.

Investigators found that the Department of Finance had known about the accounts as early as 1999, and sent emails to the parks department asking they be reconciled. Finance never followed up to see whether they had been, state Auditor Elaine Howle told the committee.

“Finance was aware there was a problem and notified DPR, which had a responsibility to reconcile. We didn’t see any action subsequent to that,” Howle said.

The existence of the accounts was perplexing because the parks department could not have spent the money without legislative authorization, authorities said.

Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned and a senior department official was fired last summer.

“As a taxpayer and heavy parks user I’m very concerned about what happened, but so far apparently the unique thing is that they were hidden – and not used,” said Peter Southworth of the Attorney General’s Office, which conducted a civil investigation.

Department officials had said they feared if the funds were discovered, the legislature would further cut the parks department budget, which had been squeezed for years. Over the past decade more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance costs have accrued, and many parks have cut hours and services.

The department has a budget of nearly $574 million in the current fiscal year, which comes from the state general fund, various bond funds, user fees and off-highway vehicle registration fees.

Howle’s audit recommended the parks department establish detailed procedures that compare year-end financial statements to ensure that the ending fund balances reported to the governor’s budget and state controller’s budget are the same.

She also recommended that officials determine how much it costs to fully operate each park. Jackson told the committee that he will try to have that information by the time the governor updates his budget in May.

“My highest priority has been taking the findings and recommendations of the audits to set a new course,” Jackson said. “I have said from the first day that I’m committed to transparency and accountability and to regaining the trust of the people of California.”

 

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