News


OPINION: Can local government save California?

 

For those of us serving as elected officials and trying to make government more responsive, the situation couldn't be clearer: our system of government in California is broken.

How do you want your children to live? What is your vision of our state going forward? How can we pool our money to finance vital services, like education and transportation? These are vital questions that need answers soon, or it will get worse. We believe a realignment of state and local government is needed. A return to more local control of both taxation and spending is essential.

California is facing high unemployment, shrinking revenues, lack of investment in the future, and profound despair that things will not change. Proposed solutions are short-term fixes, while long-term implications are often ignored. It's more than economics; it is a state government structure that can't function in difficult times.

This summer, a remarkable bipartisan summit of more than 500 local government officials from cities, counties and school boards throughout the state met to create action plans. They reviewed survey results from national pollsters revealing that people prefer more local control and trust local government to respond to their needs more effectively.

No one political party has all the answers, yet in California, minority rule drives budget decisions. California is one of three states requiring a two-thirds vote to put a budget on the governor's desk (which he can 'blue pencil' -- cutting almost whatever he wants).

About 75 percent of local money is provided by state government. When the state gets into political and financial paralysis, it inevitably looks to local government for funds -- regardless of how well a city council or school board manages its budget. As a result, local investment on infrastructure, economic development and education is hampered.

A stark example of this is the constitutional requirement that public education has first priority on public funds. Regardless, the state has cut education funds repeatedly over the last 20 years, despite who is governor.

At the same time, Sacramento mandates that local governments carry out an array of programs. This severely aggravates local fiscal challenges. The inherent strength of community level government is then dissipated in education and in health care, for small businesses, housing, and senior, child, and family care. Local and state budget sessions degenerate into debates about taking funds from one group to sustain others.

One group at the summit called for a statewide constitutional convention to address the weaknesses in the constitution regarding financial management and budgeting. It will take years but will provide long-term fixes on how the state manages its finances. Others recommended constitutional amendments or initiatives to address a simple majority for creating state budgets and changes in term limits. We believe a fiscal system that provides increased performance, transparency and accountability is needed.

Let's begin an honest non-rhetorical discussion about a vision of what kind of state we want to live in, and how we can pool our finite resources for the benefit of all. We see that happening with local government moving to the forefront.

This is one of those defining moments where grassroot interest must grow into commitment to change. Town hall meetings are starting to happen in counties throughout the state including the Tri-Valley. Contact us if you want to join. You are needed.

John Ledahl is a three-term Dublin school board trustee (ledahljohn@dublin.k12.ca.us); Tim Sbranti was elected mayor of Dublin in 2008, (tim.sbranti@ci.dublin.ca.us); and Scott Haggerty was reelected in 2008 as First District Alameda County Supervisor, (district1@acgov.org).

John Ledahl, Dublin school board trustee; Tim Sbranti, Dublin mayor; and Scott Haggerty, Alameda County Supervisor

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by D W
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Say Yes To Transparency At All Levels, People! From Government To Health Services To Education To The Pulpit To The Airwaves, We Need Accountability Everywhere!


Like this comment
Posted by Shadowbozo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 7:21 am

Government can't save anyone or anything. Whey do people think more government is the way to go? The former Soviet Union was thankful to throw off the yoke of an oppressive government. Do we really want that here in the US?

I prefer more local control as the article states. I just don't trust any level of government to get it right. I was a former "Government Employee" at LLNL. Talk about waste.


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I don't know about the other two of you but Scott Haggerty is a joke to try and help us at the local level of any government anywhere. So I assume by the two of you being involved with him you must be clowns too or just political cronies. The people we need to get rid of our you all.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Web Link
"Ten Events That Shaped California State-Local Fiscal Relations

Blurred Line Between State and Local Resources
and Responsibilities
- Makes it diffi cult to know which level of government to hold
accountable.
- Leads to intergovernmental tension.
"


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

This is what we get when every thing is put on a ballot. Direct democracy is great until a majority votes on something you don't want it to be touching. Has anyone seen the ballot initiative this year to end property and income taxation on those 55 and older? Why not just put something on the ballot to end all taxation? I'm certain a majority will vote on it!


Like this comment
Posted by Rita
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Stacey,

I had not heard about that initiative is it true and if so what is the bill number?


I am not close to 55 but honestly I see nothing wrong with exempting seniors 55 and older from property and income tax. Afterall, they have been paying and working since they were probably 18. Seems fair to me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

It is in circulation for signatures. Web Link

"1395. (09-0045)

Eliminates State Income and Property Taxes for All Residents 55 Years Old and Older. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Summary Date: 11/24/09 | Circulation Deadline: 04/23/10 | Signatures Required: 694,354

Proponent: Lee W. Olson

Exempts California residents who are 55 years old or older from paying state income and property taxes. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Annual state revenue losses of $15 billion or more due to new exemptions on personal income and estate taxation. Annual local government revenue losses of $5 billion to $10 billion due to new exemptions on property taxes. (09-0045.) (Full Text)"


Like this comment
Posted by Rat Turd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I actually agree and believe it to be good for older people, seniors over 55 not to be burdened with paying those taxes as they are trying to retire and live on a fixed income. Afterall, they have paid for all of these years and now it is our turn to shoulder the burden.


Like this comment
Posted by dublinmike
a resident of Dublin
on Jan 5, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Rick, a resident of the Another Pleasanton com types "but Scott Haggerty is a joke to try and help us... (then) you must be clowns too " does little good to move us forward towards solutions.

You have little idea what Supervisor Haggerty is trying to do, and little appreciation of his intelligence on this specific issue. I will grant that having an idea of approaching a constitutional convention for this dysfunctional state is an uphill challenge, but think of what Jefferson, Madison, et al faced in the later Sixteenth century, aka later Seventeen-hundreds...


Like this comment
Posted by dublinmike
a resident of Dublin
on Jan 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I typically hate to copy & paste from the internet but I think that in this case a literal verbatim is important. I here-fore submit the following followed by my commentary:

Article I.

Declaration of Rights.

Sec. 1. All men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property: and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.

Sec. 2. All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.

And, Sec. 9. Every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects...

I present the (partial) Declarations of Rights of...

the Constitution of the State of California.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by dublinmike
a resident of Dublin
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:56 am

oops

"...faced in the later Sixteenth century, aka later Seventeen-hundreds..." should have been 18th century. Sorry, up late.


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm

It's the 2/3 requirement to raise taxes and Prop 13 that has enabled us to hang on by our fingernails so far. Without them, do you think you'd have more money in your pockets, a more efficient government, or less waste? Better too little government than too much. Stand up for your liberty, you don't need nanny government!


Like this comment
Posted by rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

Dublinmike you must be a relative of that clown, he can't even watch a game without getting upset and acting like an idiot.


Like this comment
Posted by dublinmike
a resident of Dublin
on Feb 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

rick, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, all I can write is... can you READ. Jeez...


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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