Most New Year’s resolutions pertain to quick fixes like getting in shape, losing weight, being better with finances or keeping in touch with loved ones. It’s easy to imagine that our political leaders have similar resolutions, but we suggest a few more that would help us all throughout the year.
First, for our national politicians: Enough with the crises. For the past several years, we have been victim to these ongoing crises of varying levels. If it wasn’t the debt ceiling debate that torpedoed the stock market and lowered the nation’s credit rating in summer 2011, it was the 2010 Tax Relief Act which simply kicked the nation’s tax and spending debate down the road another year to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which simply kicked the kicked the same debate down the road to this year’s arduous and sickly fiscal cliff debate. The whole idea was to create a scenario so unpalatable that both sides would have no choice but to ease up on their ideologies and come up with a deal. The "Grand Bargain” of 2011 never was, and may have never been meant to be, but it supposedly set some common ground between the president and House Speaker John Boehner. Or it simply proved that both did not have what it took to corral support for such a compromise. Either way, it was down to the wire with Monday night’s deadline, and still, the deal that was struck was a weak one to simply kick a portion of the can down the road just a bit further. So would it be unfair, or perhaps even way too optimistic, to ask that the people we elect to do such work, to actually do it? How about a simple resolution to be politicians and work across the aisle for the greater good, rather than sticking with a trenched ideology (on both sides) that whipsaws the nation every few months? And a federal budget would be nice too.
On the state side, we suggest California legislators resolve to resist the temptation to author every piece of legislation that comes their way or is conjured up in their mind. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed 876 bills and vetoed 120 — many in a flurry of signings and vetoes just before the Sept. 30 deadline. For someone who once said "not every human problem deserves a law,” that’s a lot of new legislation signed by the governor. With 120 members of the California Legislature (80 in the Assembly and 40 in the Senate), that’s approximately eight bills per member that made it to the governor’s desk. Add to that the number of bills that didn’t make it out of committee or landed in the suspense file, and that’s a lot of legislation. How about legislators resolve to pick a total of 10 bills, good ones, and move forward with those? That may get the number down to five per member that make it to the governor’s desk — for a total of 600. It’s a start. Maybe the rest of the time could be spent on matters such as constituent assistance and hmm, let’s see, the budget?
At the local level, it would be nice if our Board of Supervisors and members of our city councils spent more time on the budget and the ongoing financial obligations within. That includes employee pay, jurisdictional consolidation and pension obligations and policy. It’s not as sexy as say, climate change policy, but there is always room at the inn for financial-minded political leaders who ask questions and require fiscal accountability of staff. In San Francisco, outgoing supervisor Sean Elsbernd has been lauded for his eye on the bottom line and that will be missed. San Mateo County is not without financial-minded elected officials, but might we suggest all our local leaders resolve to have a similar mind-set moving forward into 2013?