Restructuring of DHS justifiable
BY World's Editorials Writers
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
10/09/12 at 3:00 AM
There are pros and cons to just about every form of public governance. Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to continue with the nine-member Oklahoma Human Services Commission governing the Department of Human Services or to switch to a new form that places more authority with the agency's director and includes more citizen involvement through advisory panels.
Given the issues that have plagued the agency in recent years, and the fact that no other state in the country uses the commission form, we feel the scales tilt in favor of switching to the new form.
Voters on Nov. 6 have the opportunity to adopt the new form of governance by approving State Question 765.
If the state question is approved, the nine-member commission would be abolished. New legislation allowing the governor to appoint the director, with Senate approval, would go into effect. Four advisory councils would be created to help craft policy for these functions: developmental disabilities, child welfare, aging and human resources.
DHS has faced one controversy after another in recent years, including the high-profile deaths of children brought to the agency's attention and the class action lawsuit over foster care that ended in a settlement that will bring about far-reaching changes at the agency.
A frequent criticism raised in the wake of these issues was that the commissioners weren't taking the actions needed to address the problems. Advocates say that unelected, part-time volunteers cannot be expected to take on the many complex issues facing an agency like DHS. A director appointed by the governor would be answerable to the public by virtue of that appointment process, they contend.
"What we're doing now isn't working," said Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. "The governor answers to the public," Nelson said. "Right now you have a commission that answers to nobody."
We agree. It's time to turn to a more modern, responsive system.
Original Print Headline: Change due