"DejÃ" vu", California! After the 2003 recall and public lynching of former governor Gray Davis for allegedly "mismanaging" California's energy crisis, the citizens inherited a cadre of leaders seemingly without a plan, much less a clue what to do, to remedy the state's fiscal ills. Mind you, California is not alone. However, being a "home-grown" native, allow me to suggest a common sense strategy for "repairing, leading and reconciling with California voters, and perhaps, our Nation.
Almost everyone, especially state workers, the jobless, elderly and those with regular access to the Internet, realize legislative leaders have failed them. The state's inability to service needs, manage scarce tax dollars and exercise fiscal control by prudently planning the use of public resources, has sunk taxpayer confidence like the Titanic. California's freewheeling over promising and under delivering a form of government, plagued by the "Hand-full-of-give-me-and-mouth full of much obliged" strategies of the 1960, has handcuffed government. In effect, leaders have failed Californians""and the Nation.
Accordingly, each citizen must become a "partner" and "stakeholder" to repair a bureaucracy filled with selfish advocates, political potholes, disgruntle leaders and taxpayers fed up to their necks with "illusions' of success. We now have to ask ourselves: "What happened"? Then, "What's my role in fixing it"?
Repairing: a three-stage process
Most states across America are facing a fiscal crisis unprecedented since the great depression of 1930s. Mortgage meltdowns, cost of two wars, rising health and social service costs, trumped by dwindling tax revenues and escalating local demands, presents a daunting challenge for every American. Yet, "we will overcome", if "we tighten up, and stop ripping off each other".
First, every citizen must be prepared to engage in some form of meaningful work""paid or volunteer""to stop the bleeding. Appropriately, my father would stress, "An idle mind is the Devil's workshop". It wasn't just a slogan to him; he enforced it with benefits, love and, of course, consequences. Second, public policy makers, federal/state/local, must begin rewarding cooperation, and stop penalize local operations. This trickle-down policy of requiring states to match federal stimulus money during a crisis, forcing states to steal - or cut into - local city/county coffers just to make ends meet, is tantamount to "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul": nobody is fully satisfied. Finally, expect state budget shortfalls to deepen for 10 more years. A recent Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government study cites an 11.7% decline in state tax revenue for the first quarter of 2009. Accordingly, those revenues also declined in 47 of 50 other states as well.
Lead, Follow or Go on permanent Furlough
California and many other states have failed to elect people willing to "lead". Granted, leading in storm is risky and there are fatalities with few rewards. Then again, it's a choice. Therefore, just because leaders are expected to perform their jobs with fewer resources, e.g., tax revenue, leadership is still optional. Since most politicians only visit every 2-4 years during election and fundraisers, next time get answers to these three questions before voting for any candidate:
1) "What unique experiences, dreams and vision do you have for public office"?
2) "What does your educational, professional and work history look like"?
3) "Cite a couple of "paying jobs' you've held prior to seeking public office"?
This modest inquiry may suggest "whether-or-not they've earned' your support and vote.
Reconciliation: Where is "Please, "Thank you" and, "I'm sorry" in this process?
It defies all logic how elected leaders continue to point fingers at each other whenever things go wrong. After all, it's their jobs. Tragically, taxpayers continue to let them get away with it. Now, imagine what would happen if we - Joe Citizen - started paying our bills with IOUs, bad checks, and go on furloughs without finishing a job 3-4 months in arrears. That's right! We'd likely be hauled into court on a "misdemeanor" or a "felony", if not deemed "AWOL", and appropriately told by our employer: "You're fired"!
Obviously, we live in a world of imperfections that suggests we all have flaws. Nonetheless, seeking election to a public office, "Joe Citizen - you and I - are entitled to hold you to your word and keep you accountable for that job. Moreover, if things go array, we deserve a reasonable explanation when things go array. Surely, if "I'm sorry" is good enough for President Obama, "I'll try to do better" should work for the rest of us. Unfortunately, when all state governors met in Biloxi, Mississippi for the National Governors Association annual meeting to implement a deficit plan and response strategy for states during this crisis, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was conspicuously absent from that meeting. Instead, he mischievously sent the state Senate leader a metallic pair of bull testicles: reportedly to urge him to cut spending. Perhaps advocates for a part-time legislature and "only-paid" governors are on to something. Notably, if people volunteer for public service they may view their jobs as "practice", similar to lawyers working for clients on a 'pro-bono' basis who may feel clients, or taxpayers, forgo their rights when things go wrong. Guess what? They vote them out of office.
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