Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Government energy on non-government issues


Wise Doc said, "The simple and correct way to deal with an issue like that is to state the problem and ask for assistance." I need your help. Government is wasting our time by lecturing us "what to read," when it is government that needs the lecture on "what to read." If you want to help, keep reading.


Credibility increases when government first meets the standard they impose on others.

Government needs to demonstrate that it can access, read and apply the information it gets, before it credibly can lecture the citizenry on "what the public should be reading."

Government is quick to rally about fun causes. This note outlines things you can ask your "local government book club leadership" to make sure they read before they lecture the public about what the public should be reading.

Government is far more likely to have credibility when it can demonstrate it can apply the habits [reading] that it asks the citizenry to follow. Those who cannot demonstrate through actions and by example what is required, have no credibility in lecturing the population of "what should be done."


I'm all for governments leading the way. But when they go out of their way to comment on issues unrelated to government-affairs, I start to wonder.

It's not just where their focus is, but why are they so passionate about things that are unrelated to their "number one priority."

This isn't to say that hobbies are bad; let's not use official government resources to advocate positions that are best left to the individual. Let the public decide

Yet, when the public speak out about government, suddenly we're told, "That's not your issue" or "we handle that."

Brilliant. They miss the point again. Government seems fit to comment on private issues; but when the public speak out about government affairs, suddenly we hear excuses for inaction.

Let's be specific. A government that "can find the time" to publicly advocate a "formal book club" in government certainly has some explaining to do. There are over 62,000 hits on Google about local government book clubs.

Why are they so willing to expend energy on a "non-government function," but then when it comes to actually 'doing official work,' the government workers complain, "That's not our job" or "that's someone else's function" or "the matter is outside our jurisdiction."

Give me a break. If government is going to "spend time and energy on private book clubs," then that government needs to demonstrate it is willing to put the same energy and passion into higher government priorities.

Locals affected by national and state government

Let's not be blind to the excuses for inaction. Local government likes to comment when the constituent shows up, "That matter if for the state or Federal government." Actually, they're missing the point.

The reason the constituents show up to local government is that the state and federal governments have been unresponsive to the individual constituent.

Indeed, locals are affected by federal and state affairs; local constituents need to know that their state government is responsive; that the state auditors when they are required to conduct local performance audits are adequately prepared; and that if there is a state requirement to review local matters, that those matters are reviewed.

Locals are affected by state government; and local government needs to wake up. When it has plenty of time for book clubs, but no time for "constituent concerns about the larger government" local government sends the signal, "We would rather debate and mince words over books, but do not want to spend our time reviewing the audit reports from the state auditor local government efficiency units.

Again, book clubs are not a problem. The problem is when government focuses on the "fun things about a community" while ignoring the larger issues. Book clubs can be a fine way for locals to meet and realize they have common interests; but let's not forget why we have local government: It is to serve the community's ~governmental~ affairs, not simply become an advocate of what to read.

If local governments want to lecture the public on "what the public should be reading," I've got a list for the local governments to read:

  • State efficiency hotline reports

    The state auditor reports on government efficiency; when locals are unable to provide information to the state auditor, even though the auditor has the requirements to "take that information" by statute and also support the SAS99 audit scope, then the public is not served when there are no other outlets for anonymous reports of local corruption, malfeasance, and inefficiency.
    Questions for Book Club Leadership after reading anonymous information on local government inefficiency

  • How many valid complaints to the state auditor hotline have been rebuffed;

  • Do you know whether your state auditor are actually taking the information they are required to do so;

  • How does your state independently verify that the information that "should be taken" actually matches what the auditors are actually taking;

  • Have you read the "summary management reports" that the state auditor has issued for your work area in goverment;

  • Can you show that you are addressing problems;

  • Are issues being closed out in a timely manner;

  • Can you show to your local constituents that you take the public concerns and feedback to the anonymous tip lines seriously and take swift action to address the concern that should have been handled long ago when the problem was in its infancy; and

  • What plan does your "local government book club leadership" have to put pressure on the state auditor's office to ensure they remain responsive to your local community's interests?

  • Audits reports of your constituents' courts

    The state legislative audits on the flaws in the state court administrator's office; locals are the ones who have to go to the courts. When the bailiffs prove to engage in harassing conduct, or refuse to timely respond to requests that concerns with unlawful access to computer facilities is occurring, then local government needs to know that the "state level government" is not being responsive.

    Questions for Book Club Leadership after reading the state auditor and legislative audits on your state court administrator's office

  • Do you know how your constituents are treated in the courts that are in your local community;

  • Are you satisfied that the state court administrator is adequately reviewing matters brought to their attention;

  • Does your court system have an adequately complaint system with a single point of contact so that your constituents might address their concerns;

  • How easy is it for your constituents to meet with your state court administrator to discuss the court rules;

  • Why does the media have an easier time making appointments to discuss these issues than your immediate constituents;

  • Are the state court administrators' responses to the state auditor's management letters and audits consistent with the performance and conduct which your constituents see as they interact with the court;

  • Is there is a gap between {a} "what the state court administrators are saying in the responses to audits or managements inquiries" and {b} "what the court administrators are allowing to occur, [or are failing to correct when they deviate from the court rules"];

  • Is the state legislature, office of state legislative audits, and/or state auditor aware of the difference between what is reported in the written resposnes vs what is actually occuring;

  • What method was independently used to verify with a written response that the assertions made by the state auditor and legislative audit committees stand by their findings;

  • How was it later determined independently that the actual management written statements in response to these outside audits compared to the actual management practices; and

  • What plan does your "local government book club leadership" have to put pressure on the judicial branch of government to ensure they remain responsive to your local community's?

  • Local constituent satisfaction with your Chief Executive

    The state governor's office also has a constituent affairs which has a database of public feedback; they're supposed to take information. But when the governor's office proves to be incapable of timely reviewing a matter, or the "investigating staffer" proves incapable of realizing they're getting the run around from another branch of government, then the local constituents are not serviced.

    Questions for Book Club Leadership after reading satisfaction surveys from your constituents on their dealings with the Governor's office

  • Can you demonstrate you have reviewed and independently verified whether the governor is actually doing anything with the "local constituent concerns" or simply going through the motions?

  • Do you know whether you constituents are actually being serviced by the state governor's office;

  • Has anyone even bothered to ask, "Is there a method to evaluate whether the governor's office responses are satisfactory to my constituents?"

  • How were these results reviewed; and

  • What plan does your "local government book club leadership" have to put pressure on the governor and their staff to ensure they remain responsive to your local community's interests?

  • Your local constituents satisfaction in dealing with state legislators

    The state legislature is there to assist the public; yet when the public's simple requests are ineffectual, then local government needs to know this--their "dude" or "person" who is representing the "local community in state government" is not being responsive.

    Questions for Book Club Leadership after reviewing written comments from constituents on their satisfaction with the elected legislators

  • Do you know how effective your legislators are in responding to constituent concerns;

  • Do they demonstrate that the responses actually solve the problem;

  • Are your media points of contact following up with constituents to see whether their original problem was actually addressed by the response they got from government; and

  • What plan does your "local government book club leadership" have to put pressure on your state legislators to ensure they remain responsive to your local community's interests?

  • Energy and passion on government priorities: How does your community stack up?

    Book clubs are great. Let's just see the same local government passion and focus injected into book clubs matched with equal energy, passion, and conviction to stay engaged on ~government~ issues of interest to constituents.

    Local governments need to spend less time telling the public "what they should read," and spend more time putting the same level of scrutiny and debate into governmental affairs and reports. The same tough questions put into the creative literary devices of Charles Dickens in "A Christmas Carol" could easily be applied to the similarly creative works of fiction state court administrators provide in auditor responses.

    The lessons of the book club will truly have taken root when the same passion about Mark Twain's description of live on the Mississippi might also be applied with equal vigor to finding out what is really going on, not simply listening to the latest story of the weak spewed for by the courts to justify "not looking into something."

    It's all well and good to listen to excuses. But when a national leadership fails as they did prior to 9-11, its time for the public to start demanding accountability. This isn't simply one of saying, "Be more accountable," But actually holding the state, local, and federal government to the same standard that the citizenry is held.

    When local government starts reading the audit reports, and listening to the public feedback of "the hassle of dealing with the larger issues of government" maybe the public might have the time to listen to calls from local government on 'what to read.'

    If government wants to preach to the public about "what books the public should read," don't be afraid to ask your local government what reports they're reading. If they're talking about book clubs, but not interested in responding to the various reports listed above, might ask yourself, "Who should be telling who what to read?"

    Let's wait to hear stories of local governments debating real issues, then I might be inclined to listen to what local government say about "what the public should be reading." Until then, government has alot of work to do.

    Stop the lectures, and start reading.

    Ask your "local government's book club leadership" to explain the answers to the above questions.