Assembly Candidate Ryan Schohr wants more accountability from boards/commissions, direct oversight of legislators, sunset dates on regulations, and more sunshine for the voters

2 Apr

In my last post I reported that third assembly district candidate Ryan Schohr feels boards and commissions are keeping the state of California from serving it’s citizens.  Alot of these appointments are pure spoils positions with little or no practical worth.

For example, when Jane Dolan was ousted from her Butte County supervisor position by the voters four years ago, she was given a seat on the Flood Board by Jerry Brown, well connected to Dolan and husband Bob Mulhullond, former head of the California Democratic party. This position pays over $40,000/year, with overtime and benefits, and only requires her attendance at one meeting a month.

Robert Speer over at the Ads and Review tried to defend Dolan by saying, “And each of those monthly meetings will take many hours, if not days, of preparation. It’s hard to say how much Dolan will earn per hour, but even if it’s $200, your average lawyer’s rate, she’s well worth it.  Oh sure Bob, right, yeah, sure.  That’s like Laura Urseny saying Jan Sneed’s a real nice lady!

Casey asked, how can we get rid of some or all of these boards/commissions, and Ryan Schohr said there is currently a movement to include a sunset date on some of the regulations that create these boards/commissions. But, how do we get that? 

It starts with accountability – most legislators, Schohr laments, want to “keep an arm’s length” from these regulations, they don’t want  to be directly responsible, certainly not at election time. They insulate themselves with these boards/commissions.

Like the California Public Utilities Commission. The CPUC is a spoils board appointed by the governor. What governor can we trust – Republican or Democrat – they’ve loaded this commission with people from the utility companies. For example, the current president of the CPUC, Michael Peevey,  is the past president of Edison International and Southern California Edison – just in case you don’t know, that’s Southern California’s version of PG&E. The others are all connected to utility companies, one woman was a lawyer for the utility companies, etc. What are we thinking!

These people should also be elected by us. Why not just staff these commissions with legislators? I’ve seen it, Bernie Richter complained about it – our lawmakers spend way too much time yakking and partying while their spoils appointees are left to hand out all the cookies to their friends. They need to drop these spoils appointments. 

Schohr agrees, “we need to bring back control to the legislature,” suggesting these commissions be required to report on their activities (and expenses) every five years, and the legislature at that time can decide to dissolve them.  

He also pointed out, we need to “incentivize efficiency” by getting rid of the “spend it or lose it” budgeting system. I can’t believe this is still common – remember that episode of The Office?  Oscar explains to Michael there is a budget surplus and  if they don’t spend it, the main office will cut that much from their budget next year. A dilemma ensues – there is a true need for both new chairs and a copy machine, staff divided directly down the middle over which way to spend the money.  Michael calls the main office for advice, and David tells him the third alternative – keep it yourself as a bonus, keeps staff from fighting among themselves. So, Michael takes the money and buys a pimp coat at Burlington Coat Factory, problem solved. Wow, I can actually see people thinking that’s okay, especially when their thinking doesn’t extend beyond their proboscis. 

Actually, I still laugh out loud at the image of Steve Carell in that fur coat. But it’s true, in the public as well as private sector. Years ago Tim Bousquet told the story of a Chico State employee and her boss’  teak desk. A gal I met at a meeting Downtown told me of being chastised by co-workers for not using up the budget allotted her to wine and dine clients – “take your friends out to lunch, just use it!”  At our meeting, a retired teacher complained about being told to use her surplus classroom budget on “junk”, while her suggestions the unused portion go back toward capital debts was ignored.

“Let’s change the dynamic,” Schohr proposed. “If you save money from your budget, you can use it for something else, cut some of the spending restrictions that don’t make sense...” This would require, again, bringing folks to the table, bringing decisions back to the local level. Right now these decisions are made miles away, by people who have never been in the classroom or the patrol car or the fire truck, or the farmer’s field, or the factory floor, or your home. These people put onerous burdens on us, people who have never been north of Sacramento. 

We need local control over our law enforcement, for example, says Schohr. The board of supervisors, city council, sheriff and police chief should be able to decide where to allocate funding in their district, without the disconnected meddling of the suits in Sacramento and Los Angeles, just as teachers and parents should be able to decide where to spend money in  their children’s schools. The voters should have more sunshine into these activities, he continues, suggesting that bond measures put up before the voters should have to show the true cost of paying them off, with all that interest,  right on the ballot. 

I’d like to talk more about water issues we discussed at Sunday’s meeting in my next installment, right now, it’s looking good to put a load out on the clothesline and torch/pull some weeds! Frohes Frühling meine Fruende!

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