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Friday, August 31, 2012

The 600 - pound Gorilla

Now about that 600 pound gorilla that no one wants to mention. This critter symbolizes two issues that are fueling the diatribe. And, those are the issues that are triggering propaganda, misinformation and out-and-out lies in the campaign advertising.

Charter isn't perfect

Please don’t misunderstand me, here. I think, from reading the proposed charter quite a few times, that it could use a lot of touching up. For example, formally stating audit requirements might be better than relying on current financial practices – or not. However, any important change is pretty simple to make – convince enough of my neighbors that it’s needed, and then let the voters decide. Or I can persuade the sitting council members to bring the change to the electorate for their vote. After all, if we’re going to pay for it, we should vote for it.

Why the screaming
But petty issues and wording weaknesses aren’t fueling the screaming and chest thumping. What screaming and thumping, you ask? Well one group of folks insists that only they know what the charter “really means,” and lists what is “left out” of the charter with nefarious intent. And, it suggests the potential for council members to ignore Section 205 and interfere with audit procedures, or billing, or contracting. Of course, they could ignore current law, too, I guess.

Meanwhile, another group asks people to read the charter for themselves, despite the boring boilerplate – “follow existing law” just isn’t very exciting. Both groups avoid addressing the gorilla, so, here is my introduction to that screaming monkey.

Gorilla in the parlor -- a big, two-colored one

Imagine that the gorilla sitting on the floor in the front room is bi-colored. One color, say black, represents an end to “back room” pension adjustments. Section 602 states that any changes to the contracted retirement benefits, other than standard cost of living adjustments, must be accepted by the majority of the voters. This section makes dispensing the “gravy” a matter of convincing the voters that it’s justified – which seems fair since we voters will be paying for that gravy. However, convincing voters is harder than convincing a negotiator behind closed doors – and then browbeating the council into acceptance. That’s the way we do it now.

The tan side

The other color on the gorilla represents even more, and harder, work demanded from union officers; Section 603 requires that political donations from union members be collected as political funds, and not through automatic payroll deduction. That's the tan side, harder work, but not a unique requirement. If a need for more TV ads is addressed, each union member will have to be convinced to write a check. This makes collecting political money much more difficult. Union leaders have to convince each member that their “donation” is needed – for every political “donation.”

This is, to me, a benefit to union members. The union cannot assess “donations” as easily – so, if you’re tired of reading about union leaders conferring in Las Vegas and the Bahamas, you can decline to write a check for political funding. Or, if your family budget is a bit tight you can write a smaller check for your political “donation.”

Two colors, more work for officials

So, both colors of the gorilla represent more work for union officials, and that whole monkey represents a balancing of power with management, and less-directly, with the citizens of Costa Mesa who’ll pay the bills. The gorilla screams “what isn’t said” or “how it was written” or “what if somebody breaks the law and cheats.” The drumbeat – or chest beating -- goes on:  “Not this charter.” “No-bid contracts will be rigged.” And, of course, there’s always the name calling.

A zoo out there

Or maybe all of the “warnings” and “loopholes” are just straw dogs and red herrings intended to divert Costa Mesa’s citizens’ attention from the 600 pound gorilla in the parlor. After all, it’s a zoo out there!

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