As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Growing Anger Over The Cone Of Silence

Yesterday I noted the insanity of the Big Five process, which subverts representative democracy and good government.

The Big Five process is absurd. There are ways to decrease the influence of special interests, the biggest being full public financing of all elections. The best practice is NOT to hide from them so that the legislative process is like a team of burglars trying to rob a jewelry store without being detected. And the less people involved in any negotiation, the more possibility for eventual corruption through backroom dealing.

Others have piled on. Greg Lucas has penned an open letter to the budget negotiators, all five of them.

Do none of you find it troubling that the decisions you are making regarding the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars are largely made in private and then announced deus ex machina to us, the public, whose money it is you are allocating.

Seems like there should be some public hearings on what’s happening to the public’s money. There used to be hearings like that. Of course, there used to be conference committees and compromise too [...]

Better choices might be found if some testimony were taken from the 1 million or so aged, blind and disabled poor who not only will not receive a cost of living increase this year but will see their checks rolled back to 2008 levels in order to save $177 million this year and $500 million the next [...]

Sure, it’s a representative government and you’re supposed to represent us but most of you were around last year when a record for tardiness was set for passing an alleged budget that was both irresponsible and out of balance in 15, maybe 16, seconds. So, with respect, looks like you can use some help.

Finally, while the Legislature is not subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act – a drafting error, no doubt – at a minimum some sunlight should be shone on the most important public policy act the state takes: putting together its annual spending plan.

And Jean Ross at the California Budget Project laments what she dubs the cone of silence.

Secrecy in budget negotiations is nothing new. However, the level of secrecy around budget negotiations that reached a new high last summer has been far surpassed by the lack of information in the current negotiations. While rumors fly daily - often several times a day - as to when a vote on a budget deal may occur, these rumors are neither confirmed nor denied by those truly in the know.

The one safe bet seems to be that there will be no public hearings and no opportunity for public input on major decisions that will shape California for years, if not decades, to come. The taxes and spending cuts that are likely to be included will no doubt be drawn from some combination of the Governor’s proposals and plans supported by Legislative Democrats in late 2008. However, there are increasing signs that additional measures, such as a “hard” spending cap and sizeable tax cuts for the state’s largest corporations, may also be part of the package. The cone of silence has been particularly airtight with respect to “add ons” such as these. No details have been made available to rank and file lawmakers or the public that would enable a critical assessment of the impact they might have on current and future budgets.

This is just not a way to run a government that purports to be a democracy and not an oligrachy. It's our money. Open the doors.

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