Who's the Boss?by Jon Coupal
President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Ass'n
LBReport.com preface: Although the piece below discusses Sacramento behavior, on May 1 LB voters face ballot measures advanced by a City Council majority and Mayor Bob Foster that include creating a City Hall selected "salary commission" (Prop B) that could raise Council salaries to full time level without requiring full time work or a recorded vote by Councilmembers (similar to a Sacramento mechanism that's fattened state lawmaker salaries). Another measure (Prop C) would weaken LB's term limits law in a way that benefits incumbents.
(March 23, 2007) -- If you arrived at your office, shop or business and found the locks
had been changed, several thoughts would pass through your mind. If
you were an employee, you would wonder if this were a not-so-subtle
message from your boss that your services were no longer needed. If
it was your own business, you would wonder what son-of-a-bleep did
this and, most importantly, how would you serve the customers or
clients that depend on your services?
Similar questions probably went through the minds of three state
senators last week when they discovered that, in an immature fit of
vengeance, Senate leader Don Perata had ordered capitol staff to
change the locks on their offices.
So what were the transgressions of newly-elected Senators Ron
Caldron, Gloria Negrete-McLeod and Lou Correa? Were they discovered
to be Al-Qaeda operatives in disguise? Heck, no. Their unspeakable
act of treason was attending a fundraising dinner put together by
the Assembly's moderate caucus, known as the "Mod Squad," a small
group of Democrats that sometimes supports pro-business legislation.
The insult to voters for this juvenile act goes way beyond the
$1,000 dollars or so of taxpayers money it took to bring in General
Services (at time and a half because it was a Sunday) to change the
locks. No, this cuts to more fundamental problems with the
Legislature as an institution.
First, citizens have always wondered just to whom their Sacramento
representatives are really accountable. And considering the low
esteem in which the public holds the Legislature, most people
believe the answer is not "us."
"Boss" Perata's actions confirm our worst suspicions. Although the
locks were changed without warning, changing the locks was a
warning: Don't cross the boss!
When legislating was made a full time affair in 1966, lawmakers
could cocoon in Sacramento for decades. Life was good. They picked
the voters they wanted by designing their own districts and there
were no term limits to interrupt their longevity. There was
virtually nothing to prevent reelection after reelection except the
prison sentences a few received for committing the ultimate sin --
In 1990, voters decided they had had enough and approved Proposition
140, limiting politicians to three terms in the Assembly and two in
the Senate. But the "hand-crafted" procedure that guaranteed safe
districts remained in place.
Still, the average voter hopes that when they have a problem with a
state agency or an interest in legislation, at least their own
representative will acknowledge their concern. After all, as
arrogant as some elected officials have become, they still pay lip
service to representing their constituents.
But if we ever needed proof that talk of putting their constituents'
interests first is just a sham, we got it from Don Perata.
When Gray Davis was Governor, he famously said the job of the
Legislature was to "implement his vision." Many, both in and out of
government, were offended by this expression of unbridled arrogance.
Perata, it is clear, shares this self-important perspective.
Although he is elected by only one fortieth of California residents,
he wants total allegiance to his will, rather than having "renegade"
lawmakers supporting legislation that benefits their constituents.
So voters need to remember two things. First, you have no real
choice because the design of your district determines who will win
-- that is why control of a Senate or Assembly seat rarely changes
from one political party to another. Second your representatives are
your representatives in name only. Once elected, they must adhere to
the dictates of the political bosses. If not, they will be punished.
Either way, ultimately it is legislators' constituents who are
punished under the current system.
Oh, and did I mention that Perata and other lawmakers are working
behind the scenes supporting an effort to extend their terms in
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