Looking Behind The Scenes

Sacramento hasn’t learned prudent lesson of cutting spending

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Defrosting the notebook while wondering when this latest spate of global warming will go away ... One thing not going away is government’s never-satiated appetite for more and more taxpayers’ dollars. Despite economic downturns, which threaten to make the Great Depression appear to be a missed paycheck, elected officials continue to do what they do best; namely turn the job of spending into a perpetual gig. Remember the joke about how the wife had her Nordstrom’s credit card stolen, and I refused to notify the police because the thief spent less than she did? Well, the gangs at Sacramento and Washington, D.C. have gone way past that. Odd, isn’t it? After all, us regular folk who see our income dwindle to less than our outgo do the only realistic thing one can do in such times. When you haven’t got enough money to cover the current bills, the prudent thing to do is cut spending. Obviously a lesson not learned at Sacramento. It was no accident that when the assembly and state senate gathered in one joint meeting to hear collective tales of woe from the treasurer, controller and budget wizards, was the same day many of those elected politicos picked up their new taxpayer-funded automobiles, each accompanied by a taxpayer-funded gasoline credit card. In fairness, it should be pointed out that local state Sen. Dave Cox still refuses to take a state vehicle. More learned columnists than yours truly will have better insight on this issue, but I’d be remiss if I did not point out what should be obvious. We should all realize that budget matters emulate the problems in dealing with effluents; eventually it all runs downhill. So whatever the budget says, and whatever new taxes are levied — revenue neutral or not — rest assured that it won’t be very long at all before cities such as Auburn find out just how bad the Sacramento solons have raided our local coffers ... Word to the wise: Neophyte city Councilman Bill Kirby deserves kudos for getting Bob Snyder to serve as his interim planning commissioner, a feat more difficult that one would gather at first blush. Let’s remember that when Snyder announced he would not seek re-election to the City Council, he made a point of saying he deserved some time with Stephanie and family, and was looking forward to doing some traveling. That thought lasted about as long as an un-sold senate seat in Illinois. Nobody understands the machinations of Auburn politics as does Snyder, and very few local citizens have demonstrated the complete love he has for the city. Hopefully we are not that far way from removing the word “interim” from Snyder’s title. Meantime, Kirby also had some words of advice for members of said commission. He said that he’d met with the city attorney and city manager, and is of the opinion that the commission “is a tool of the City Council to facilitate planning. It is not a policy-making or enforcement body, and is not directly responsible to the citizens of Auburn as are the members of the City Council.” That appears to mean such commissioners would serve the city better by realizing they are there to review proposals, see how they fit, suggest ways to facilitate solutions and to advise — quietly — the council. Thus, Kirby said, it allows “people doing business in the city to be able to properly plan their projects. Capricious evaluations of properly designed projects are not in the (Commission’s) purview,” The new councilman hastened to add that he was not looking for an easily programmed robot to represent him on the Commission. Instead, he was seeking someone who understood that there is latitude allowed, such as when a variance is requested, an act which should be “handled in a respectful manner and in accordance with established city policy.”  But rest assured, he insists, that “the final arbiter is always the elected City Council,” then made it plain that such commissioners serve at the will of the council There is no set term, and the moment such an appointee decides to be in charge, then that’s the time the term needs to end... Personnel matters: Congrats to Meddler Curt Smith, just elevated to president of the Auburn Recreation District. And tomorrow morning, say hello to John Ruffcorn, the new captain at the Auburn Police Department. He’s a 21-year veteran from the Riverside Sheriff’s Office, and his impressive jacket shows a year’s fellowship with Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. He can be reached at