Saturday, May 2, 2009

California Special Election & Budget--Shut it Down!

My first “real” job was with the State of North Dakota as a community development specialist. One of the things I loved about it was how intimate the government was.

The state had a “bi-ennial” budget and the legislature met for 100 days every 2 years. True citizen law-makers. The standing joke in government circles was that the state constitutional provision calling for a 100 day session every 2 years was really a misprint. The punchline was it was supposed to read a 2 day session every 100 years.

But, there was a true emphasis on governance. Not government. We had one of those. The issue is how government will govern—governance. As a state employee (and I had more than a little to do with putting together my department’s budget) we were engrained with a keen awareness that we were spending “the people’s money” and there was an expectation that we would spend it as frugally and efficiently as possible on behalf of the taxpayer.

Anyway I have lived in California for the last 11 years. In that time I have witnessed one budget debacle after another crowned by the recall of a sitting governor because of his inability to achieve a consensus to resolve budget conflict.

It’s May, 2009. The state’s economy and budget are both in tatters. The current state budget was “balanced” (as is required by the state’s constitution) using smoke and mirrors. Now we are coming up on a special election later this month to make it official and to extend some of the “band-aid” fixes so that the precarious house of cards might be able to teeter like the world’s biggest game of Jenga for a little longer.

But like all games of Jenga, the pieces will eventually tumble to a pile. That’s guaranteed. That’s how the winner is determined in Jenga. But for the people of the State of California, that will be the symbol that we’ve all just lost.

I have tried to make sense of the 6 proposed measures on which we are being asked to vote May 19. Basically, the way I read them is that they are gobbledegook, smoke and mirrors and short term solutions with long-term financial repercussions. About the closest I can come to an analogy is that they’re like trading off a car on which thousands are still owed and taking a loan for a new car where you are paying off both the new car and the old car you just got rid of. A lot of people have done that and have found out that they just dug themselves a big hole.

Public radio had a story yesterday that suggested that the reason many voters are undecided are that many people are waiting for their favorite organization to come out with a position, or that they’re waiting for their least favorite organization to come out with a position and will vote the opposite way. Why is it that it seems as though the “organizations” who make endorsement tend to be organizations who have the most to gain or lose financially (i.e. public employee unions)?

All this is being done to balance a budget. Little or no thought has been given to governance. There is an increasing call for a constitutional convention to address some of these issues. Some are saying solve this current crisis and then address some of the issues via a “con-con”. Nope.

Let’s do this. Defeat all the measures on the ballot. Shut down everything but essential services (and don’t let unions try to define what is essential and what isn’t). Turn them down and then shut it down. Shut it down until the politicians come up with a solution which isn’t couched in platitudes, legerdemain and electoral blackmail.

Shut it down. Look at the governance of the State of California from top to bottom and come up with some solutions. There have to be some people of good intentions out there, people who have no axes to grind, who can and will look into how we presently govern and how we ought to govern.

It couldn’t hurt. Not any worse than it already does.

1 comment:

  1. Yep. A bunch of malarkey. Just seems like the state is moving numbers from column to column. There is no real solution here. For example, I can't believe borrowing against future lottery revenue is a good idea. Have they learned nothing from citizens up to their eyeballs in credit debt?