Tuesday Jun 30 2009
Got government fatigue? Forget it for the Fourth
By: Tony Hazarian, Publisher, Auburn Journal
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Declaration of Independence, adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776 Placer County executives receive a 5 percent pay raise while authorizing 12 unpaid days off for the majority of county employees. The former county court executive is accused of giving himself unauthorized raises and benefits exceeding $400,000. State legislators continue to bicker over the state’s $24 billion sink hole, yet their attorney claims their $173 per diem is not subject to a state-appointed citizens’ commission’s decision to reduce such daily allowances by 18 percent. I think I’m ill. If the founding fathers could see the mess that’s been made of our local and state governments, they’d either blow the bugle or sprint across the border into Mexico. All men created equal? Tell that to the laid off construction worker or the small business owner who boarded up his shop during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? You can find it in many places, but it sure helps if you’re a high-ranking government manager who enjoys fully paid health care, car subsidies and the possibility of earning more in retirement than during your working years. As we gather this weekend to celebrate our nation’s 233rd birthday, I’ve found it interesting to read the Declaration of Independence for the first time in many years, trying to imagine the anger and frustration those patriots must have felt as they declared their independence from the king of England. Poetic, eloquent and frank about their intentions, the co-signers strung together some 1,300-plus words with grace and style. While most people are familiar with the opening paragraphs, the meat of the document is a litany of alleged transgressions by the king, some of which might ably describe current events in Auburn and Sacramento. “In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury,” the signers wrote. “A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” The pulse on the street and the buzz on the Internet is that many paid government leaders — hired or elected — have taken on the roles of princes and princesses to the commoners they oversee. Perhaps no local story has touched such a nerve as the county Board of Supervisors approving 5 percent merit increases for seven county employees last week. All but one of the employees makes more than $100,000 annually; and three make more than $139,000, including Chief Assistant CEO Richard Colwell, who saw his annual salary jump to $243,131. Each is subject to a one-day-per-month furlough, so the raises are offset by the days off, but you wouldn’t think that by the letters and the dozens of comments posted on Auburnjournal.com in the hours and days after the story published. “Very bad form — don’t the supes know that ‘in difficult times we all share in the pain, and in good times we share in the gain.’ What a pity,” wrote online reader Robert Capp. “Apparently, our financial crisis in California isn’t bad enough yet. There are still too many people in government who can’t fathom anything other than ‘business as usual,’” wrote another reader going by Auburn Tom. “The British are coming!” wrote Rabidog. While the battle cry for another revolution is faint — we Californians probably couldn’t agree between green tea, baby white tea or a fragrant chamomile — the noble subjects are beginning to squirm. And with each passing day that a state fiscal solution isn’t found or a story surfaces over raises for top government managers, our discontent boils a little more. Hot or iced, that tea isn’t one I’m looking forward to drinking. So, instead, I’m swearing off the swearing this holiday weekend and thinking positive about America’s 234th year of independence. I’m firing up the grill and proudly flying the American flag on my home. I’ll call my Dad and thank him for his World War II service, keeping us free from the threat of tyranny. I’ll walk with pride in the Auburn Family Fourth of July Parade on Saturday night, and at dusk I’ll look to the sky for the fireworks bursting with the signs of freedom. Because no matter what happens at DeWitt Center or the state Capitol, I’m ready to party like its 1776. It only happens once a year.