Public input can make a difference

A first-hand glimpse at the California State Legislature’s process for passing a budget is enlightening, if troubling. The Democrats, who hold a supermajority in both houses, spend the months leading up to the last-minute vote crafting a plan and unveiling it only hours before asking their Republican colleagues to approve it. None of them do, but it does not matter because their minority votes are unnecessary to moving forward. Still, conservative legislators stand up and criticize the lack of transparency and failure to address long-term fiscal concerns and ask why they are not included in the process. Meanwhile Democrats mill about the room holding side conversations with one another and occasionally walk back to the press pit where they share a chuckle with members of the press corps about how fun it is to watch the rankled conservatives rail about not getting to read the document beforehand.

The only thing more disturbing than the scene itself is the fact that virtually no one in the mainstream media is reporting on this utter breakdown of public trust. No one reports on how the trailers tacked onto the budget bill create further long-term obligations for one-time funds. And few report on how taxes approved by voters to save the picked-over revenues to prop up education have been diverted instead to projects like high-speed rail.

It is too late for us to hope for a different solution at the state level — at least year. But we do have an opportunity tonight to make our voices heard when the Ridgecrest City Council considers approval of the budget at tonight’s meeting, at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

Our council members have castigated their state counterparts for deferring action on fiscally responsible governance. But we can forge our own destiny on the municipal level. We don’t have to allow public service to fall victim to the disastrous formula of rising costs of bureaucracy and diminishing revenue streams.

A testament to the comparatively engaged attitude of the local populace is that fact that our local proceedings have drawn more attendants than the silent few who witnessed those at the state level.

Recent scandals at the federal level of government remind us that participation from the voting public is a critical component to transparency and accountability. We all have an opportunity to exercise our right to be a part of that process tonight.

Story First Published: 2013-06-19