Cluttered Layout

The County Board's Office Space Is A Magnet For Bad Karma, Dude.

FENG SHUI IS the Chinese art of creating balance, harmony and prosperity in your environment. It has multiple aspects, but one of the most fascinating involves interiors, landscapes and architecture. The placement of objects, the correct mix of wood and metal, the use of mirrors and indoor open space are very important to the spiritual well-being of the inhabitants of any home or office.

Look closely at the diagram of the 11th floor of the Pima County Administration Building. You don't need to be a practitioner of Feng Shui to notice that it lacks the most basic principles of anybody's idea of harmony. It's even worse when you're in the office, which is your basic rabbit warren. As the old saying goes, "bad karma."

There are some who would suggest the disjointed and often paranoid actions of some members of this Board of Supervisors are influenced by the floor plan of their offices. There are others who believe their floor plan reflects the inherent paranoia of politicians in general and this bunch in particular. And there are still other, kinder souls who consider them prisoners of their environment and their cumulative failure to do anything about it.

Like Topsy, the layout of Pima County's "head shed" just grew. Nobody planned any of this; it all just sort of happened over the years -- kinda like the financial problems of Kino Hospital.

Back in the old days, when there were just three members on the Board and they each had a secretary, most of the floor was taken up by the county manager and other bureaucrats -- a situation that continued even after the Board expanded to five members after the 1972 election. It took supervisors another 12 years to add more staff.

Each supe acquired an aide in the early '80s. At first they shared a secretary, but before long they each had one of their own. And by the early '90s they voted themselves a second aide. Add to that the occasional intern and the summer students, and the area was bursting at the seams.

Periodic remodeling occurred into the 1990s, usually after an election replaced some Board members. The late Sam Lena once remarked that throughout his 14 years as a county supervisor, he remained in the same office and never even moved his desk. During that period Lena said the door to his inner office was moved onto three different walls.

The chaos greatly increased in 1993 when the most dysfunctional and paranoid Board majority in history took over. Led by Chairman Ed Moore, who loved to compartmentalize everything, the physical compartmentalization took on new meaning. The new county administrator, Manoj Vyas, fit the surroundings to a T and the intrigue abounded. The 11th floor became known as Casbah, the historical repository of guile.

Vyas didn't last long and the '96 election eliminated both Moore and his primary waterboy, Paul Marsh. Moore's other occasional ally, Mike Boyd, survived, but even Boyd wants to go to work somewhere else. (That is, on those rare occasions when Boyd comes to work.) Boyd experimented with keeping an office at Rillito Race Track, and we're told he'd like to move out again, and put his office at Mehl Family Park if he can get the city to let him -- or switch that park back to Pima County.

As the new supes came on, accommodations were reached on an ad hoc basis. Current County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says he could never get all five Board members to sit down and plan the use of their own space. But one thing was obvious -- they needed more of it. Huckelberry acted on his own and, during one of those periodic relocations of county bureaucrats, moved his staff completely off the 11th floor to the one below, where he has set up a relatively open and user-friendly area that stands in contrast to the distinctly unappealing space his five bosses share.

There was no planned assignment of the now empty space. Like Albanian Kosovars coming down from the hills, various Board members informally occupied the newly abandoned space. Huckelberry's old grand, wood-paneled office was grabbed by Glenn Miller, an aide to Supervisor Raul Grijalva. The rabbit warren principle expanded.

Even if they don't buy into all of the principles of Feng Shui relative to spiritual well-being, many businesses and large corporations grasp the basic concept that physical environment affects basic functions. No one in his right mind (and some of them may not have been) would design an office area like the one this Board of Supes works in. Much of the general dysfunctional lack of cooperation and perceptions of paranoia are caused by our elected officials' headquarters.

But even those supervisors who recognize how bad it really is seem incapable of doing anything, which indicates just how dysfunctional this Board may cumulatively have gotten. If they can't even come together to rationally decide their own office space, it's hardly any wonder that they're having trouble coming together about other things -- like an $800 million budget.

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