In the middle of San Diego County’s 2007-2008 proposed $4.7 billion budget, the Air Pollution Control District lists its accomplishments. The district is responsible for regulating air emissions in the county and falls under the county government’s purview.

The budget relays this accomplishment:

Engaged youth through outreach mediums including kids website (50 hits per month)

Though it claims the website as an accomplishment, the district says the site has not met expectations and admits the national recognition it received was in part based on an incorrect statistic.

In an application for a 2006 achievement award from the National Association of Counties, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization, the Air Pollution Control District made this claim:

The Kid’s Page’s success can be measured by the number of hits in a month, number of patches requested, and feedback received from users. This page has been receiving approximately 2,000 hits per month.

I spoke today with Karen Jacobs, the district’s outreach coordinator, and asked why the website was now only receiving 50 hits monthly when it had once gotten 2,000.

Jacobs said the page had in fact never received 2,000 hits per month. “That was the anticipation,” she said.

“It has not been as successful as we had anticipated,” Jacobs said.

The website contains crossword puzzles, games and a scavenger hunt. Creating the website took 120 hours of staff time — about three weeks — billed at a rate above the traditional clerical level. The district also paid to develop promotional materials to market the site, including a paper hat.

No definitive cost is outlined in the award application and a district spokeswoman was unable to provide the website’s cost.

The website ended up receiving the award from the National Association of Counties in 2006, one of 41 awards the county won that year. In annual reports, its budget and other promotional materials, the county claims the awards as a sign of its excellence and fiscal responsibility.

From the county’s 2007-2008 budget:

For the second year in a row, the County of San Diego dominated the annual Achievement Awards contest held by the National Association of Counties (NACo) for programs that save taxpayer dollars and provide valuable services to the public.

ROB DAVIS

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