Friday, February 27, 2009

COURAGE TO CHANGE

I AM GIVING UP IDENTIFICATION WITH POLITICAL PARTY OR IDEOLOGY. I have long thought this but when I saw Governor Schwarzenegger's announcement that he'd host a constitutional convention, that he was ready to restructure government I was inspired. He's right.

He wants to do it in part to kick out Democrats. I've been a registered Democrat for life and was very active on the Presidential campaign. I still support Obama. So I get the politics of of the Governor's desire to hold a constitutional convention whose purpose is, among others, to eliminate offices held by Democrats. But those offices won't be held by Republicans if they are truly eliminated either. If he's got a back door on this, then shame on me. And shame on us. Watch closely. But I also get that it is very true that "the staffs and the special interests are running the Capitol, and the legislators -- the elected officials -- can't get up to speed in time before they have to bow out and leave. So it is not good for anybody." I couldn't agree more.

YOU GO ARNOLD! THIS ROCKS.
Although he's excited about the notion of a convention, Schwarzenegger would open it to a broader range of people than the sponsoring business group, the Bay Area Council. It has suggested selecting delegates "through a random jury pool process" to keep special interests from "gaming the system." The governor says legislative leaders and good-government groups also should be represented.
I say we look at it as a way to run lots of things, including regulatory agencies because they are just as susceptible to industry capture as any arm of government. I know this from experience. I've worked on behalf of many industries from drug, lumber, chemical manufacturers to many of the largest communications companies in the world before federal agencies and agencies in nearly every state in the union and have logged more days in trials, rulemaking proceedings, appeals, lobbying, and even testifying to legislative committees than I care to count. The agencies in and of themselves are not bad nor are the people that run them. I mean that. I know these folks personnally and respect their dedication and committment to public service.

What's wrong is not the people nor is it even the concept of regulation - there have to be rules of the game and there has to be accountability - we are learning that lessson, as a planet, the hard way right now; What's wrong is that the process of governing has become so opaque it has no accountability or even recognizable form.

From where I sit, I see non-productive dynamics driven largely by lack of public participation, lack of public understanding, and ultimately lack of institutional accountability. (I define institution to mean executive branch (both the elected officials and the agencies that report to them), legislative, judicial AND corporations - they are institutions that owe their existence to government). What happens is a wild dance of everyone second guessing politics. As a result federal and state agency heads - typically called "Commissioners" - and their staff will take all sorts of flak from industry, governor's offices, legislatures and industry. Industry - and this means all sides of any regulated industry (and there are always sides in a regulated game, but that's another essay) - is taking flak from its employees, shareholders, competitors, engineeers, technologists, lawyers (sometimes you have to deliver the bad news to your client) and customers and generally going straight out of its mind because it can never consistently get the same answer on the same facts across any two agencies, any two administrations or even any two proceedings at times. The same dynamic is true for executive and legislative branches. They are not bad or evil or stupid though any group of people, whatever its makeup, purpose, and powers and certainly any individual, including yours truly can do bad, evil or stupid thingsfrom time to time. All in all, this entire dyanmic can stretch one's capacity for maintaining Zen-like calm at times.

But before I indict the dynamic in which all 4 institutions are captured, let me point out that the same is true for the public. What we need is better visibility and accountability in ALL DIRECTIONS. So even Governor Schwarzenegger's bold suggestion is not perfect, it has the intended consequence of ensuring that the Public sees more of and is more deeply aware of and involved in what Governors, Agency Heads, Legislators, Judges and Corporations do. It has the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE OF HOLDING JOHN Q. PUBLIC ACCOUNTABLE TOO.

Joe Sixpack, Super-connected ultra rich venture capitalst, lawyer, mom, dad, student, dude, - whatever your label -- HEY YOU! RIGHT THERE. YOU. YES, YOU.

TIRED OF GOVERNMENT?

THINK IT NEEDS TO BE FIXED?

PERFECT.

TAG. YOU'RE IT.

THE GOVERNOR IS CALLING.

GIDDY UP!

ERIK