August 24, 2009
Dear Alyson Huber:
I am in receipt of your 2009 10th Assembly District Community Survey distributed by direct mail and by door-to-door. I appreciate very much the opportunity to participate in the democratic decision making process. But I feel public opinion polls do not provide participants with sufficient choices and options to adequately address the range of issues challenging Californians today. So I will recap each question listed in your survey and supply my response.
Let me just say, before delving into the survey, that I am retired from public service so I have some experience in government. I have lived in CA all of my adult life. I got my college education in the CA community college and state university system. I got mine. I have spent substantial time in other states. And last year I moved my elderly father from FL to CA so he could live near me and I can look after him. We drove from the Gulf Coast of FL. We stayed a week in Folly Beach, SC. We, then, drove across the country cutting through the heartland. We saw a lot in our travels.
The state just faced a $26 billion budget deficit. What parts of the budget do you feel should have been protected from cuts or should have been protected from future cuts. 1: top priority 2: Middle priority 3: Low Priority
Repairing Roads, Bridges & Other Infrastructure
Building new Roads & highways
Assistance to Poor, disabled, elderly
Overall I believe that CA continues to shoot itself in the foot with the passage of every proposition & referendum. Propositions are always authored by special interest groups with an ax to grind. Nowhere is that more evident than Prop 13 & its continuing fallout. Lawmakers failed to come to grips with the realities of Prop 13 when it was passed. All of the budgetary items are necessary components of an orderly state in the 21st century. From my travels, I’ve observed that CA is light years ahead of most states in implementation & compliance of federal mandates like environmental quality and Americans with Disabilities Act. I would like to see our representation in DC quit apologizing for CA’s progressive policies and start counting those policies as assets and resources. CA developed a Cap & Trade Program for smog forming emissions that could easily be the model for a national Carbon Cap & Trade program if Capital Hill wasn’t held hostage by the Oil Lobby. CA law requires local jurisdictions to have a General Plan in order to permit orderly growth. Why the state does not have a General Plan is beyond me. If the state had a General Plan, we would have an understanding of the state of the state and would know what resources we have and how to pay for our needs. If we had a State General Plan we would know that paying for growth inducing new roads, highways & other expensive infrastructure is counter productive and you wouldn’t even be asking that questions. If there were a statewide General Plan composed of local jurisdictional plans, we would have to worry less about local government funding.
How do you believe the budget should be balanced?
•With budget cuts only
•With a balanced of cuts & some temporary increases in taxes & fees
•With an increase in taxes and fees only
That’s the question lawmakers have failed to address since Prop 13. That’s what we send representation to Sacramento and DC to answer. Everyone wants government out and low taxes until their house burns up or their neighbor operates a shade-tree auto repair or there’s a meth lab in the neighborhood. While lawmakers promise to represent their constituents & fight for jobs/services in their district, they seem to be unaware that citizens in other areas have different but no less valid causes. A lot of money could be saved by reducing overlap and redundancies in the various levels of government. Do we really need a CalEPA when we have the federal EPA and local planning agencies? Could CalEPA become the State Clearinghouse and coordinating agency for a statewide General Plan? Do local jurisdictions need police in city limits & the Sheriff in the county jurisdiction where cities and counties often overlap? I doubt lawmakers know how many commissions & boards, committees & PACs have some say in the public process. Nor do they know how commissions & PACs overlap and conflict. We need a commission to decommission the committees and streamline the government process.
Some have proposed across the board budget cuts, which will completely eliminate programs that provide health care to children and require further cuts to our schools.
Since the public has no idea which programs are funded by what revenue source or sources, how are we supposed to make that decision? Those are the big decisions lawmakers are elected to make. I personally think a stingy education budget is short-sighted & counter productive. I received a good education for a very reasonable cost when compared with the state I came from. My children went to good public schools. I don’t have a problem funding education and health care for the next generation. I think, as the state has become more urbanized, education has become a statewide concern. If funding were distributed evenly instead of proportionate to property taxes, it could be a more democratic system of public education. I am personally grateful that we aren’t forced to pay for Bible studies with taxpayer money.
Several recommendations have been suggested to reform the Legislature to get CA back on track. Which reforms would you support?
Barney Frank recently observed that voters have other lives to live & that’s why we send representation to Congress. I would 2nd that. The CA Constitution has been amended 590 times in its 150 year history. Any document amended that many times has a lot of gaps in the continuum. It is time for a constitutional convention to discuss & research government reforms and make recommendations to simplify & reform the state as an organization & institution. I personally would be happy to sit on such a commission & would do so for a fraction of what some of these people are making. I was paid to be an impartial analyst & to make recommendations based upon policies, standards & ordinances.
Over the past 3 years, CA has passed over $50 B in bonds, but we have no oversight body to review these bonds. Would you support requiring the State Legislature to establish a bond oversight committee to conduct financial audits & review the performance of these bond funds?
No. Legislation by proposition is always a bad idea. The authors have an ax to grind & no idea how implementation will fit into existing body of law & budgeting requirements. We have a State Auditor/Controller.
Would you support keeping new bond measures off future state ballots until all the money from prior bonds for similar projects has been spent. Yes. Our credit is shot. Our bonds are low grade. We need to get back to even before offering new bonds.
Would you support requiring the Legislature to hire an outside accounting firm to conduct independent audits of state bond projects? No. See below.
Would you support requiring the Legislature to hire an outside accounting firm to conduct independent audits of state bond projects.
No to all outsourcing of independent audits. During the 80s when CA was trying to have cake & eat it too, lots of outside consultants were brought in to tell us how to do our jobs. The net result was that the consultants made a lot of money & nothing got improved or streamlined. CA has plenty of best & brightest & people who can do the job if they are so permitted & if their recommendations are not just tossed overboard because those recommendations don’t suit the Decision Makers’ personal or political agenda.
If we had a functional government instead of knee jerk reactionary propositions & bonds for every perceived need, we would know where to place our resources and how to fill gaps and voids. If we had a statewide General Plan we could plan for future needs like high speed rail and flood protection. We could also plan and prepare for future needs in the budget process. Don’t we have a State Comptroller (State CFO)?
CA has hundreds of boards & commissions, more than any other state. Do you support or oppose efforts to eliminate & consolidate these boards if they have outlived their usefulness?
Support, definitely. Part of the reason I’m putting time & effort into this project is there are too many commissions & not enough accountabilty. There are many commissions that overlap & supersede local jurisdictions. The organization chart & lines of communication need to be sorted out.
Some of the board members on these boards are paid over $130,000/year, but only meet once a month. Do you support or oppose efforts to audit their workloads to justify these salaries.
Support, definitely. This structure makes government no more responsive to the needs of the taxpayers & citizens than Board of Directors of publicly offered corporations are responsible to shareholders or consumers. BTW, I’d be happy to sit on an oversight & audit panel for significantly less than $130,000/yr. Why did I ever work for a living?
To increase government efficiency, should the legislature set up a new Oversight Committee to continually identify & eliminate waste, duplication & inefficiency in government agencies? Certain state agencies would be automatically eliminated every 10 years unless evaluation shows they are cost effective & are not duplicating work done by other government agencies.
Yes. Such an oversight agency would be a natural step in the implementation & on-going policy review of a Statewide General Plan. A General Plan is made up of a number of elements or topics that comprise the organization & make up of the jurisdiction.
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY
CA is in the process of receiving hundreds of millions of federal stimulus funds through the AR&RA of 2009. How important is it for the State to monitor & audit the spending of the funds to avoid waste & improper uses?
Very important. But this is nothing new. CA has been receiving federal funding for specific purposes for years. That oversight mechanism should already be in place. FYI: appropriate spending of that federal funding is why CA has been able to be light years ahead of other states in things like pollution control & technology forcing legislation which has resulted in things like the CA Catalytic Converter & the Emissions Cap & Trade program. These are good models for nation wide efforts. Our DC representation seems not to be aware of CA’s track record in many arenas.
Do you support or oppose closing legal loopholes so that candidates, ballot measure campaigns & slate mailer vendors are required to disclose their contributions on the internet with the Secretary of State.
I think all campaign funding should be disclosed & transparent on every issue & candidate. Obama made campaign funding disclosure very simple. Why can’t CA do the same? Perhaps if people knew Prop 8 was primarily funded by the Catholic & Mormon churches they wouldn’t have been so cavalier in restricting the civil right of others.
Currently many State Commissioners who are political appointees are paid full-time 6-figure salaries despite only being required to meet a few times a month. Do you support or oppose the proposal to audit the amount of work these appointees do & evaluate how much they are paid for these responsibilities.
Perhaps if these positions weren’t just political pay-off for campaign promises & the appointees actually had some background & experience in the arena in which they are appointed, these State Commissioner positions wouldn’t be such an affront to the taxpayer & the citizens. Statewide General Plan could help place qualified people in oversight positions. Again, I’d be happy to serve for a hellova lot less than 6-figures.
As CA addresses the water crisis, how important is it that we have local representation on any new water boards formed to address water needs in the state-especially those that target the Delta water?
It is always necessary to have all of the Stakeholders at the decision making table. All too often the major stakeholder, the average citizen, is left out of the process. There were no average citizens @ the table when the topic of North Natomas was under discussion in Sacramento. I don’t know if the results would have been different. No Natomas was opened & the only Stakeholders that really benefitted were the land developers & decision makers who went on to higher state office. But while boards & commissions dither & push through the start up process, the state could be beating the drum for water conservation & sensible usage. Nothing wrong with that at any time. This state can no longer afford the luxury of wasting water. The State could also require any water agency doing business in the state have BACT (Best Available Control Technology) on all infrastructure. Water agencies say metering will help conserve water. True enough. But at-the-tap water heaters will save a whole lot more water by not running water until it gets hot. That kind of state of the art control technology should be in every household & business & at every tap.
Would you support Govenator’s plan to build a new $15 B peripheral canal to carry water around the Sacto/San Joaquin Delta for Central & So Cal water agencies?
No. I would support upgrading & making the existing water delivery system more efficient. I would also support landscape replacement programs which leave English Tea Garden landscaping in the UK & put drought tolerant landscaping in its place. We cannot sustain a standard of living that assumes clean running water without some investment.
How do you rate the quality of K-12 education in your neighborhood?
I have no firsthand knowledge of K-8 in my neighborhood. I did sit on my community HOA when we finally forced the issue of a new high school which I’m happy to report is now in its 5th year of operation & I’m told is state of the art. I think it is exceedingly short-sighted to scrimp on our children’s education.
What do you think the State can do to help improve local schools?
Education, like pollution, is no longer a local issue. This is a big state. Some counties are larger than some eastern states. It requires statewide coordination & even distribution of funding rather than depending upon funds proportionate to real estate values & property taxes. Prop 13 got legs because a very small special interest group frightened the old people in this state into believing taxes would eventually throw them out of their homes. They believed the propaganda & couldn’t see the benefit of paying for someone else’s kids’ education. Those old folks are mostly gone now but our kids are still paying for that short-sightedness. I don’t think shoving the responsibility off to gaming revenues or lottery tickets is the answer either. We need to be reminded that nothing is free. CA has a very good standard of living & concern for public health, safety & welfare. But nothing is free. You get what you pay for.
Do you think the State should help address the problem of escalating school dropout rates, or should this be left to local school districts?
Perhaps if the schools were able to teach the 3 Rs and basic instruction, we wouldn’t have enormous drop out rates. The reasons for dropout are many. Teachers are the boots on the ground for education. They should be encouraged to accommodate the students they have not teach to test levels. Education is community & statewide responsibility.
What issues are you most concerned about in our community?
Jobs & economy – this is a global recession. We can’t go backward. We can only progress by creating new, green jobs. CA has a ready made solar array on our rooftops. Create jobs putting solar panels on every rooftop in the state. Purveyors of energy in this state should be required to provide BACT & invest in their own infrastructure putting solar panels on CA rooftops. Job creation. Economy booster. & BTW: solar & wind farms represent further encroachment into wildlife habitat. Ignoring our rooftops is a redundancy we cannot afford.
Public Safety- investment in electronic law enforcement & surveillance could enhance public safety greatly. Enforce speed limits, hands free phone/text ordinances, stop signs, smart highways. Ankle bracelets for non-violent offenders. Lots of ways to grow & upgrade by thinking outside the envelop.
Education – again investment in electronic educational infrastructure.
Health Care – there are plenty of models for health care like the state of MA. Also, insurance companies doing business in this state should be required to participate in an assigned risk pool. Insurers would broaden their markets & divide up the already sick to get them well & competent to join the workforce. Insurance companies have made theirs. It’s time they joined civilized society & pony up.
Transportation – No more funding for growth inducing roads to exurbia. Again, a statewide General Plan would tell us where to place investment to facilitate land uses that would support public transit & how to facilitate transportation.
Seniors & Disabled – CA does a lot more to accommodate the disabled than any other state including FL where my father spent the last 30 yrs of his life. FL was developed by the old for the elderly & with no look to the future. We don’t want to go there. FL is hurting worse than CA. They just don’t know it yet.
Water Supply – again responsible allocation of our precious resource (let’s not forget water is more necessary than oil for human existence).
Veterans Affairs – don’t know much about that but I think that CA goes an extra mile for our vets with the Cal Vet program which seems to be an enhancement of VA benefits.
Environment – we can’t solve other problems & not solve environmental challenges. Statewide General Plan. Environmental challenges & pollution are not now & never were local issues. We need statewide application of standards. Autos emit smog forming emissions in Bay Area which drift into Sacramento Valley. Yet Sacto has more stringent emission standards that Bay Area?
I think it’s time that we start pulling this state together as a state. Quit pitting community against community, neighbor against neighbor, city against county. It’s time states quit competing against each other & start cooperating to solve these problems. What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. What happens in CA eventually drifts eastward. Let’s make sure we have a positive impact on our country. CA has significant investment in the future. Let’s not squander that investment.
Thank you for providing this forum.