Skip to main content

Voting My Interests or My Conscience

I’ve hesitated to turn in my absentee ballot for California’s May 19 special election. At first I wasn’t planning to vote at all – a surprising act for me since I’ve actually stopped in the middle of lectures to excoriate my law students for not voting. Like many Californians, I’m fed up and disgusted with my state government. What makes it worse is that I work for my state government.

At issue is whether I: 1) hold my nose and vote for the ballot measures “intended” to balance the state budget; or 2) take away the state’s credit card, wait for the Legislature and the Governor to get their collective acts together, and risk my own layoff? In other words, do I do what I think is in my own best interests or what is in the best interests of the state?

If the budget measures pass, I might avoid being laid off. If they fail, my chances of being laid off increase. However, given the ineptness of our state leaders, I’m not convinced that, even if the budget measures pass, I won’t be laid off because I think they'll just continue business as usual with no systemic, meaningful change to state budgeting and spending. So if I vote in favor of the budget measures and they fail, not only are the chances of my being laid off increased, but I will have compromised my own beliefs for nothing.

I don’t believe in my state government. Here’s why:

1) Once the budget passed, the Governor and legislative leaders were back to their old tricks of hooking up their buddies by appointing them to paying positions on state boards and commission that already had enough members to conduct the business of those boards and commissions. Some of the appointments were just laughable and just emphasized that, in state government, there are the connected and the unconnected. The connected always live to be appointed another day by the leaders in their party, regardless of the cost to the public fisc.

2) Every year, state agencies run – not walk, but run – to spend all the money allotted them regardless of whether they actually need to spend the money. Why? Because they might not be budgeted for the same amount next year if they spend less than they were budgeted for this year. It’s just plain crazy. Zero based budgeting, anyone?

3) The University of California system has run amok. The regents just voted to increase student fees while at the same time increasing the base pay for newly hired chancellors using the same tired argument that they need the base pay increases to “attract talent.” If these new chancellors had any integrity, they’d give the salary increases back, even if these salary increases are new to them.

4) Assembly Speaker Bass approved raises for Assembly staff, only to rescind them when the press brought the raises to light.

5) The State Personnel Board is still listing open positions. If we’re in such a budget crisis, should the state be hiring anyone at all?

6) Is it me, or is it beyond crazy that one legislator – Abel Maldonado – could engage in nothing short of extortion in order for the Legislature to be able to pass the budget? I was surprised that he didn’t ask for a pony named Macaroni as a condition for getting his support. Another example of more politicking, less governing.

7) If we're in such a budget mess that required executive-imposed two-day-per-month furloughs, why did the Department of Personnel Administration negotiate a one-day-per-month furlough with the SEIU, the union representing almost half of the state's civil service workers? Even more, why is the state legislature sitting on this contract? Because the SEIU's state body is opposing the budget measures. Again, another example of more politicking, less governing.

8) We keep passing initiatives to increase funding to K-12 education, yet our public schools continue to languish near the bottom. I'm convinced that the performance of our public schools isn't a money issue, but a leadership and innovation issue.

As you can imagine, my conscience tells me that the more I prop up this failed state government, the more it will continue to fail. Like AIG.

On the other hand, I have one year and one and one-half months until I vest. If through some miracle I can hang on until then, I will have something to show for my time with the state. Not that I believe that I will actually get a pension, but I will at least have a legal claim to one. If I can ride out one more year of budget cuts and bad state governance, I will have at least vested and still be somewhat young enough to move on and try to vest elsewhere, or at least fatten my 401K.

So, do I vote my interests or do I vote my conscience?

We desperately need someone like President Obama on the state level – a politician who is willing to look out for the long term best interests of the state even at the expense of his or her short term political ambitions. But that kind of animal doesn’t exist in the zoo that is our state government.


eponymous said…
excellent piece.i agree with everything that you said. tough decisions all around. personally, i am ecstatic that i finally graduated from the UC system. the fee increases with the money spent on administration and building renovations or construction shows misordered priorities that will bite the UC system in the butt when they solicit alumns for much needed cash. i'll give back to my undergrad before my grad because they knew how to treat their students.

Popular posts from this blog

When You Leave The Ghetto, Don't Bring It With You

NBA player Gilbert Arenas brings a gun to an NBA locker room. NBA player Ron Artest lets his pit bulls run wild and free in Loomis, California while playing for the Sacramento Kings. NFL player Michael Vick did time for fighting dogs. And NFL player Plaxico Burress is doing time for shooting his damn self.

What do all these men have in common? BMNB would say an inability to make a profound paradigm shift. I’m less eloquent than BMNB is, so I’ll say it differently: The inability to leave the ghetto behind.

Yes, call me saditty, bourgie, elitist, stuck-up, whatever. I don’t care. Until you’ve had a tweaker ruin your Thanksgiving turkey, you don’t even know (more on that later), and I’m not trying to hear you.

Living in Western Placer County, my husband and I continue to hear stories from folks like us who had to flee “those who can’t leave the ghetto behind.” You know these people, and they come in all races. In our case, we had returned to Sacramento in 2004 and 2005, respective…

Malia's Hair is Off Limits! So is Sasha's!

I read a snippet of a New York Times article in which there was criticism of the hairstyle Malia Obama wore to Italy. Twists, to be precise. Said twists were criticized as not befitting someone representing the United States abroad.

Hold up. Slow your roll, America. You don't get a say in this. Neither Malia nor Sasha "chose" to represent the United States in any way, shape, or form. And their hair, and how they wear it, is off limits. Back the eff off.

I was hotter than a hornet reading this. The whole black woman's hair thing? That's personal with me. We black women have more than enough issues and neuroses about our hair and how we wear it. It is not open to debate within wider circles, especially when there's a child involved. The choices we have, other than wearing our hair in its natural state in twists, dreads, braids, cornrows or afros, are painful -- chemical relaxers, also called "creamy crack," and searing hot straightening combs. If Malia …

Hillary Clinton Can Stop Trump -- If She Releases Her Electors

Hillary Clinton isn't going to be President of the United States.  At least not yet.  And not in 2017.

But she can possibly stop Donald Trump from being President by releasing her pledged electors  in the Electoral College to vote for a compromise Republican candidate.

This is part of the strategy of the Hamilton Electors, members of the Electoral College who see that Donald Trump is not qualified to be President.  They argue that the Electoral College's role is not to rubber-stamp the popular vote -- which, in this case, would belong to Clinton -- but to serve as a check on the popular vote to make sure that no one who is unfit assumes the office of President.

According to the Hamilton Electors, named for Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (Yes, he of the very popular musical for which I can't get tickets) Hamilton stated that the Electoral College's test for fitness to be the President was as follows (and I'm quoting):

Election of a Qualified Person: As Hamilton s…