Our View: Meet in Auburn, not Washington, D.C.

Our View
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Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes criticized Congressman Tom McClintock recently for not backing progressive local programs with federal dollars. McClintock fired back that Holmes must be out of touch with the federal financial crisis. There is probably some truth to both elected officials’ statements. What gets lost in the bickering, however, is the wasteful spending from both camps, though when compared to the $14 trillion-plus federal deficit, it must seem like Monopoly money anyway. Holmes, Supervisor Robert Weygandt and $250,000-a-year CEO Tom Miller recently flew to Washington to lobby the feds for seemingly worthwhile Placer County projects. These projects include the biomass facility at Tahoe, which on the surface seems like a pretty smart idea, Placer Parkway transportation improvements and the Placer County Conservation Plan. Holmes and company make a very good argument that these projects are environmentally sound, are a good use of federal dollars and benefit county residents. But this is 2011. Could they send an e-mail, videoconference, utilize Skype or some other relatively common and inexpensive form of communication to get their message across? It just doesn’t make sense or look responsible to residents to see the three county execs flying off to Washington, dining out and staying at expensive hotels to lobby those already paid to represent us at taxpayer expense. It’s time to conduct business differently, given the state of the economy. As for McClintock, he criticized Holmes for traveling all the way to Washington, wasting taxpayers’ money to meet with him for just 15 minutes. McClintock argued that he flies back to the district almost every week. Holmes and company could meet with our U.S. representative here, McClintock stressed. On the surface that sounds good. But when you think about it, why is McClintock making so many frequent trips to Placer County — doesn’t he live in Elk Grove or Thousand Oaks? — all at taxpayer expense. “We’re going to have to make dramatic spending reductions to avoid the fate of countries like Greece and Portugal,” McClintock told the Auburn Journal recently. Agreed. And, further, though it might seem like a small thing, how about cutting out the seemingly every-weekend flights back and forth between Washington and Sacramento to save a few bucks? It wouldn’t solve the national deficit, but it would show taxpayers that arch-conservative, anti-spending McClintock is willing to cut back himself, not just cut from others’ budgets. The Auburn City Council recently voted not to pay to send representatives on a similar Capital-to-Capital lobbying trip. The Auburn Council rightfully noted that these cross-country trips send taxpayers the wrong message. There is much hullabaloo about marketing Auburn and marketing Placer County. We are an Amgen Tour of California host site, the Endurance Capital of the World, the Gateway to the Sierra and so much more. How about if the Placer County Board of Supervisors hosts a public meeting and invites Sens. Boxer and Feinstein, and Congressman McClintock to meet with them here in Auburn? A bus trip to the biomass facility site, or wastewater treatment plant, would surely cost less than a Washington, D.C. junket and many other tourist attractions could be enjoyed and marketed at the same time. Instead of spending $1,600 to eat out in Washington, spend a fraction of that to eat at Bootlegger’s, Monkey Cat, the Club Car or Joe Caribe’s. Shop local, keep tax money local, and support your neighbors and constituents. Does that ring a bell? The whole brouhaha between Holmes and McClintock is a tiny blip on the economic radar screen. But small actions by true leaders can lead to change. We seem to have at least a couple of problems in government: a spending addiction and a communication challenge. Local government boards should quit the capital trips and invite federal politicos here to see our challenges firsthand and also see what wonderful opportunities we have to offer the country. Federal officials should make it a point to travel to California only when necessary using public funds. And when they do come here, meet with full boards and discuss important issues at every opportunity.