Taxes and the lack of accountability quandry

Posted on September 23, 2012

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In some of the latest polling on the two tax initiatives, Prop 30, the guv’s proposal is running about even while prop 38 is running behind. The AOC stands as the representative poster child of why no fees or taxes should increase because government in general has done zero to reign in fraud, waste, public corruption and patronage employment.

California’s executive branch still has more than 300 boards and commissions, a number that no one can truly seem to nail down because there is no master list of them according to the California Performance Review report. On this same page, it outlines the intended purpose of boards and commissions and the actual effect boards and commissions have had on transparency and accountability. Boards and commissions in some cases have served to increase transparency but have universally also served to shield others, mostly politicians, from accountability.

Similarly, the Judicial Council and the AOC have enlisted this stellar blueprint pushed forth by the executive and legislative branches of government in forming councils and committees that serve the same purpose. The AOC executive director and the chief justice enjoy the same shield that boards and commissions serve politicians – a shield from accountability. Our judicial branch leadership, the same people ripping our courts off Serving themselves to the detriment of all Californians and shutting courthouses and courtrooms down have not hesitated to follow up the word transparency with accountability as if they were part and parcel of the same thing.

We all know that transparency is not the same thing as accountability. The challenge for us California voters is that we discovered long ago that the only way to ever hold politicians (or judicial branch leadership) accountable is to limit their ability to levy taxes, fees and spending. Is it really worth 53 million dollars per year to rent 31 courtrooms in Long Beach when hundreds are shutting down due to a lack of funds? What would happen if California’s judicial branch was forced to walk away from that deal due to a lack of legislative appropriations?

In all cases, these councils and committees are charged with answering specific questions but in all cases they are also powerless to act upon their findings or resolve additional questions that might come up outside of their bright line charters or agendas, most of which is defined and approved by a small group of insiders that has run this branch for about 15 years.

In most cases we’ve seen in the Judicial Council and the AOC, the results of these various reports by their committees have served the same purpose of boards and commissions of the executive insofar as they outlined only a part of the problem and as a result came up with only part of a the solution. What we’ve witnessed time and again as a result of this is a re-arranging of Titanic’s deck chairs while the judicial leadership band played on trying to convince us all that there is nothing wrong at the crystal palace that six billion dollars worth of OCCM erected steel or a 3 billion dollar Information Systems wonder toy like CCMS won’t cure.

Lately we’ve seen a bunch of new blood but it only takes a quick gander of these new lists to come to the realization that it is the same tainted insiders that remain firmly in control either in terms of numbers of committee members or more importantly in terms of the number of committee chairs and vice chairs. Much like the states’ over 300 boards and commissions, these committees serve to somewhat obscure transparency. The mantra of “We have a committee that handles those matters” is repeated often while the same committee serves no purpose whatsoever in the arena of accountability. The chief justice gets to state that a committee covered that ground and finished their work and that this limited scope report represents their findings. What we the people get is that the various leadership and management changes their seating position at the table, yet they remain at or return to the table and they call that accountability. 

 

California in general has a long ways to go to address these across the board leadership failures with leadership by unelected boards, commissions or committees. However, nowhere in California are these boards, commissions or committees more insular, self-serving and lacking both transparency and accountability than they are in California’s judicial branch and this is why California’s judicial council must be democratized.