Thursday, January 27, 2011

#27 / The City

It is important for all of us to remember that we are in charge of our elected officials, and not the opposite. That's the point I was trying to make yesterday, in my Post #26. Of course, this principle applies at all levels of government, not just the "county" level.

It is also important for elected officials, at all levels of government, to remember that they are in charge of the public employees (the "bureaucrats," to use a colloquial and somewhat dismissive expression). All too often, we find that elected officials see their job as presenting to the public what the "experts" on the staff tell them is the right thing to do.

After almost twenty years as an elected official, I found it was possible to sum up what I had learned about being a good elected official in five simple rules. My "Rule #2" is worth thinking about:
Rule #2: “Remember You're In Charge.” There is a bureaucratic momentum present in every institution (certainly including government). An elected official needs to remember that he or she was elected to run the bureaucracy not the other way around.
Last week, apparently without any authorization by the Santa Cruz City Council, the Santa Cruz City Attorney sent a sixteen page letter to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), telling that independent agency that it probably did not have legal authority to adopt various new water policies, which LAFCO now has under consideration. In his letter, the City Attorney said that he spoke "on behalf of the City of Santa Cruz."

Whether what the City Attorney said is right or not (I, personally, doubt that it's right) a message from the City can really only be sent "on behalf of the City...." if the City's elected officials have so directed.

That's the meaning of Rule #2.

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