Sunday, June 21, 2009

State officials' cars- stealing our taxpayer money, or a new way to steal cars, i.e., "wrongfully take"?

Here's a story from last week that you may have already heard, but does it matter to you that this happens? State officials are granted a vehicle, and I don't say "car" because these "vehicles" are so much more than "basic transportation" if you examine what each described official has selected. It's all in the story covered in the L.A. Times from June 16, 2009, by Patrick McGreevy, "Legislators' cars cost taxpayers $3.2 million in three years; The tab includes gasoline and insurance. Use by family members is covered too. The benefits, rare outside California, may be curtailed." //,0,7729878.story

The story lays it all out but you might remember what I have said earlier with the case of a lot- though not all- Latino politicians, and especially those with very humble backgrounds. They out and out become greedy and cannot believe their good fortune to become elected or appointed to a public office with all the benefits that come with it.

It's kind of like Halloween trick-or-treat for kids who are presented by some residents with a big bowl of candies to reach in and help themselves. Some are timid, reserved or respectful and take at least one or maybe a couple. But then you always have the others who are just in disbelief upon hearing this offer and make a generous grab of candies, sometimes going for two, and maybe having to be reminded to leave some for others to be able to enjoy, too.

When it comes to "free" cars, these guys/women can't get enough and request models that they might not lay out their own cash to drive. You might think there would be some guidelines to keep that greedy Halloween urge from taking over, but the outcome shows something more effective is needed to remind "public servants" just who is supposed to be the servant.

From the story:

When legislators' cars need maintenance or are in accidents -- even with spouses or offspring at the wheel -- taxpayers also pay, state records show.

The cost of providing lawmakers with Cadillacs, Lincoln Town Cars, Priuses and Lexuses, keeping the vehicles full of gas and fixing them when they crash was $3.2 million during the last three years.

Although that sum is a small fraction of the $24-billion budget shortfall, it has drawn the attention of the California Citizens Compensation Commission. The panel, which determines lawmakers' pay and recently voted to slash their salaries by 18% starting next year, will meet this week to consider cutting benefits as well.

Commission Chairman Charles Murray said the idea that taxpayers are providing legislators with $50,000 luxury cars is hard to swallow, given the state's budget problems.

"I personally think it's ludicrous," said Murray, who owns an insurance company in Los Angeles. "You have guys out of work, people losing their job, departments downsizing, and they [legislators] are saying, 'Look at me in my STS.'

"California is one of only three states that provide legislators with cars for use in their districts, and the vast majority of states do not provide gasoline cards, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

That last part is important- it means 47 of 50 states do NOT supply cars, and personal cars are used. And for all the states, most do not hand over a gas credit card, either. How would any official ever be able to say "I feel your pain" and mean it when there is good pay, no layoff, free cars, free gas, additional per diems for another 30 grand to be away from home in Sacramento?

The mention of a pay cut of 18 percent is only taking effect on the NEW people coming into office. Why? Well, because legally, you cannot cut pay after the term of an official has begun, so only NEW "hires" and re-elected people will be drawing reduced pay, and the current piggies will still continue to splash around in the trough, maybe being termed out and headed for another office where their history of "enjoying themselves at the taxpayers expense" is not known to potential constituents. Or maybe it's explained away by some of the fast-talking, mumbo-jumbo, convoluted logic that passes for English language communication, spun just enough to make you think it was a bargain to the taxpayer.

Just what were the details here? A good chart to see some "offenders" in this area is in the L.A. Times,,0,2596207.graphic Like the old George Gershwin song says, "Nice work if you can get it."

There's another blog that I have been clued into by Mayor Sam's blog- all the blogs for whatever your interest may be, and this one is Latino Politics that gives some recognition to practices mentioned by people who occasionally confuse public office with being a member of royalty.

Among the views published, you can see a lot of hostile reader comments,definitely no nice but understandably so. The bigger problem is that things like this are routine with politicians and they don't expect anyone to find out of the abuse, and if they do, then it will not be addressed either in a timely fashion, or in a way that's going to be able to reach the offender. Here's where you have a different, more subtle kind of recidivism problem in crime.

In both the L.A.Times and Latino Politics, they mention the family participation here. So, when Rocky Delgadillo's wife damaged the city car that only Rocky was supposed to drive, a lot of trouble surfaced for Rocky because of it and the lies he made to cover up for his wife. In Sacramento, apparently, the "car" is treated like the "family car," and everyone gets to use it. Oh, yes, and "we" get to pay for it. Isn't that crazy?

If Rocky had been a state official, his wife would be o.k. to drive and crash the car since California self-insures everybody, allowing the whole family to run up the charges for the taxpayers. Bonnie Garcia did her part to let her son participate in government operations:
Then-Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia's son Javier "made a right turn in front of oncoming traffic" in a December 2006 accident that cost the state $22,000, state records say.
And just to be fair in showing it's not only youthful drivers running up the bill for the state:

In September 2008, Maxine Yee, the wife of Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), was driving him to the airport when she ran into a stalled car. That cost taxpayers $32,600.

And now taking another old phrase, this time from an old t.v. show, "Kid are people, too," we have to keep in mind, "Politicians are people, too." Let's consider that phrase for what it does NOT mean: They are not geniuses, not that they can't be, but holding office doesn't make them such. They are not perfect- and that's in the sense of being "good", since some are perfect fools for what they preach, and the names on that list can be different for each taxpayer, depending on what you look while making it up. Neither are they automatically honest, truthful, or resistant to corruption by money or power.

They all bear watching and all need to be given an extra generous helping of scrutiny when it comes to what they are doing. And, giving credit where it's due, SOME HAVE NOT BEEN GREEDY when it comes to getting cars, and some even use THEIR OWN CARS instead of using government paid-for cars. So for those, few, I say, "Keep up that kind of approach in the rest of what you do."