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1. Consider the case for moving independent boards and commissions into executive branch departments. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a restructuring?
1b.Government reformers often lose their appetite for the political battle over restructuring the executive branch when they discover that, in itself, it tends to save little money. Are there other reasons to consider such reorganization? Do these reasons make a strong enough case to make it worth the political fight, even if there are not big savings in tax dollars?
1c.Consider the symbolic value of an organizations structure. What roles do such symbols play, on both sides of the reorganization battle?
For Sunset, a golden retriever, the news from Sacramento wasnt good. Sunset was training to be a guide dog for the blind, and Sunsets instructor, Katryn Webster, was worried about the future of her organization, Guide Dogs of the Desert.1 The Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind, the state government agency regulating Sunsets training and Websters organization, was threatened with radical surgery as part of Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggers new reform agenda, the California Performance Review. Webster wasnt sure whether the performance reviews recommendations would permanently change the way her organization worked and how effective it could be.
When he took office in January 2004, Schwarzenegger launched the performance review program to eliminate waste and inefficiency across state government, in part by reducing perceived duplication in common functions and responsibilities.2 The Gubernator, as he quickly became known to fans of his action-hero movies, faced a huge budget deficit and a public tired of taxes. At his inauguration, Schwarzenegger told Californias citizens that his performance review could help slash the state governments costs. I plan a total review of governmentits performance, its practices, its cost, he announced.
Luckily for Sunset, when Schwarzeneggers task force made its recommendations in August 2004, it didnt suggest wiping out the guide dog program and the board that supervised it. Rather, it recommended moving the Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind to a new Department of Education and Workforce Preparationalong with similar changes for more than a hundred other boards and agencies that existed independent of the governors cabinet agencies. But the boards supporters worried the move would weaken their work.
Guide dogs take you into situations where its life and death, explained board member Jane Brackman, and if a dog isnt properly trained or a student isnt properly trained, people die.4 Sheila Styron, president of Guide Dog Users, a national support organization, added, Most people in California are pretty happy with the board. In fact, she said, We would like it to become stronger.5
Eliminating the board, its supporters said, would not even save the state any moneySchwarzeneggers primary goal in launching the performance reviewbecause license fees paid the boards $141,000 annual budget. (Blind persons received the dog and training for free; donations covered the $50,000-per-dog training cost, and the three dog-training academies that exist in California paid the state a license fee to be allowed to operate.) The board was scarcely a megabureaucracy soaking up taxpayer dollars; its seven members each received $100 (plus expenses) per day for the boards eight meetings per year.
Tough government rules were necessary, said the boards supporters, because some dog owners were taking unfair advantage of the special rules for guide dogs. Dog lovers with perfectly good eyesight, for exle, were pretending their pets were guide dogs to be able to bring them into restaurants. The board performed important advocacy work as well, such as its effort to get an exemption for guide dogs from Hawaiis rule that dogs moving into the state had to be quarantined (to protect Hawaii from importing rabies). Moving the board into the new department, supporters feared, would make it harder to provide dogs for blind citizens. You put a small entity like the state board into an overarching entity, explained Mitch Pomerantz, a disability law compliance officer for Los Angeles, and its going to get lost in the shuffle.6
Critics, however, wondered if the California Performance Review had gone far enough. They did not go to the hard step and say, Do we really need to regulate guide dog trainers anymore? explained Julie DAngelo Fellmeth, administrative director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego. Theyre not shrinking government. Theyre just getting rid of multi-member boards and substituting
The battle over the Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind played itself out hundreds of times over. Schwarzeneggers task force recommended that a third of the states 339 independent boards and commissions should be moved into executive departments, whose heads would report to the elected governor.
Three months after the California Performance Review issued its report, experts told a public hearing that any kind of reorganization would be difficult to implement. Every board had its own constituency, and every constituency feared its influence over policy would be watered down if the location of its organization was moved lower on the bureaucratic food chain. While searching for billions of dollars of savings, Schwarzenegger and his aides had to decide how far to take a reorganization battle that promised few budgetary savings.
On the other hand, if he were to step back from the reorganization battle, Schwarzenegger risked undermining his credibility. In his 2004 State of the State address, he had pledged to blow up boxes in restructuring the states bureaucracyeliminating those boxed entries that are so ubiquitous on organizational charts. Toward the end of his first year in office, however, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial said his term so far had mostly been a victory parade. His performance review offered 1,200 recommendationsranging from improved electronic government to changing vehicle registration from once a year to once every two yearswhich would produce $32 billion in predicted savings. Is he serious about government reform, or is the package for political show? the newspaper asked.8
Schwarzenegger was vastly underrated when he took office. Critics laughed off his caign as an ego-driven publicity stunt. But they had grossly underestimated the wily Austrian bodybuilder and chess player. In case after case, he proved a far more effective governor than his critics had expected. After a few months, The only people who are still laughing at Governor Schwarzenegger, explained Jack Pitney, a Claremont McKenna political scientist, are the people who dont know California.9
But his performance review remained a long-running battle. Schwarzenegger had called Californias sprawling government bureaucracy a mastodon frozen in time. He saw the job of restructuring the state bureaucracyincluding the Board of Guide Dogs for the Blindas a symbol to demonstrate his determination to transform the state government. He knew that the reorganization, in itself, would not save billions. But if he could prevail, it would strengthen his hand in controlling the state government apparatus and in enhancing his ability to win on even bigger policy battles later.
The battle had enormous implications, many observers of California politics believed. To me, the jurys still out on whether he wants real, true structural reform, said Joe Canciamilla, a Democrat from the State Assembly. If hes not willing to take that step, with the popularity hes had, the independence hes had, the public statements hes madeif this governor isnt willing to go there, it aint gonna happen for several generations.10
The battle hinged on the supervision of Sunset, the golden retriever, and thousands of cases just like Sunsets throughout the state and its government.
2. Would you be concerned if you found a note saying a private security guard had opened a locked piece of luggage and searched it, without you being present and without your knowledge or permission? Or would you assume this action is part of the security procedures you submit yourself to when you fly these days?
2b.This raises a broader question. Are there functions that are inherently governmental, which only the government should perform? How far should government reform go in turning public power over to the private sector?
For Samantha and Darrin, it had been a long and grueling trip back home. They finally snagged their luggage from the baggage claim carousel, dragged the bags to the car, and staggered up the stairs. What a great trip that was! Samantha told Darrin. Imagine. Just a day agoor was it two?we were standing on top of the Great Wall of China. Thats one more item on my bucket list.
Darrin was jet-lagged and found it hard to join the conversation. He unlocked the bags and started pulling out the clothing from their two-week trip. As Samantha started sorting through everything on the bed, she pulled out a paper tag. Whats this? she asked. Darrin looked more carefully. They found a very polite Thank you for flying from San Francisco International printed tag insidebut the next line brought them up short. Notification of Inspection the tag continued. To protect you and your fellow passengers, Covenant Aviation Security (CAS) is required by law to inspect all checked baggage. Who was Covenant? According to the tag, CAS is a private company under contract with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to provide baggage and passenger screening at San Francisco International Airport.
One of Darrins bags had been singled out for an inspection. He had been using one of the TSA-approved locks. Covenant used a special key, poked through the luggage, left behind the inspection tag, and resealed it. Neither Darrin nor Samantha had been present for the inspection. They had pulled their bags from the carousel in San Francisco, trudged through immigration and customs before reaching the domestic transfer desk, and piled their luggage on top of the growing mountain of bags waiting to be sorted onto connecting flights. At some point after they left their bags in San Francisco, Covenant employees gave the bag and its contents a close look.
Darrin was slightly incredulous that someone had gone through his stuff without his being present. He was too tired to care much that night, but in the next few days he started digging through the internet.
Soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress and the Bush administration decided to federalize airport screeners. Analysts worried that the previous privately operated screening stations had allowed armed terrorists to board the aircraft, and policymakers concluded that the public would feel safer about flying again if federal workers conducted the screening. However, the law also contained a provision allowing individual airports to opt out of the federalized program if they hired private contractors who met tough national standards. San Francisco International Airport decided to go with Covenant.
At SFO, as the airport is known, the company holds an annual tournament where its employees can win big cash prizes for winning competitions. They are challenged to find explosives in carry-on bags, pick locks on luggage, and find disguised terrorists on videos. In one competition, Covenants president, Gerald L. Berry, posed as a dangerous-looking character. Cash prizes range as high as $1,500. The bonuses are pretty handsome, Berry explained. We have to be goodequal or better than the feds. So we work at it, and we incentivize.
So the card Darrin found inside his luggage was part of a far larger policy debate: deputizing private companies and their employees to open locked luggage and poke through an individuals private property. The debate grew even more heated toward the end of 2010, when John Tyner, a thirty-one-year-old software programmer, filmed his screening by federal TSA officials at San Diegos airport. He complained about the physical pat-down that one TSA employee gave him. If you touch my junk, he said, Ill have you arrested. The storyand his clandestine videoquickly went viral online (see http://johnnyedge.blogspot.com/2010/11/these-events-took-place-roughly-between.html). Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) charged pointedly that TSA was never intended to be an army of 67,000 employees.2
3. What do you think about the policy of veterans preference? Is it a fair and important way of providing opportunity to veterans who served their country? Or should government seek to hire new employees solely on the basis of the qualifications of applicants?
4. Should Cranick have been able to pay on the spot for service, so the firefighters could save his house? https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna39516346
5. What factors account for the cost savings in Chesapeake, Virginia, and Phoenix, Arizona? http://www.waste360.com/mag/waste_collection_citys_managed
6. Do you believe that public-private partnerships offer hope for important problems where governmental revenue is inadequate?
7. Its one thing to take a principled stand on legalizing marijuana. Its another to think through how to implement it. Do you think that the states considered the administrative implications carefully enough? https://www.governing.com/commentary/gov-marijuana-legalization-enforcement-problems.html
8. Do you think its a concern that law enforcement on issues like marijuana in the United States can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction? If so, what should we do about it? If not, are there some issues on which enforcement should be uniform? https://www.governing.com/columns/washington-watch/gov-jenga-federalism-trump-obama.html
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