From the Desk of the Editor-in-Chief
July 13, 2010
Ron Diedrich, Acting Director
Department of General Services
Ziggurat Building, 707 Third Street
West Sacramento, CA 95605-2811
Dear Mr. Diedrich:
Respectfully, this letter requests the immediate termination of the display adjacent to the right door of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Capitol office depicting the alleged daily cost of a budget not being enacted for the fiscal year which began July 1.
In a July 7, 2010 post, The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert has noted the flimsy factual foundation for the governor’s claim that each day of inaction carries a cost of $52.3 million. The figure is simply the Schwarzenegger administration’s estimate of the budget gap — $19.1 billion – divided by 365.
Additionally, it should be noted that the $19.1 billion is the amount the state will be in the hole on June 30, 2011, a little under 12 months hence, absent any action by the Legislature or governor, who also shares in the responsibility for creating a budget solution.
Veracity of the content aside, displaying this “counter” in the state Capitol represents a misuse of taxpayer funds. As you are no doubt aware, Article XVI, Section 6 of the state constitution prohibits the gift of public funds.
Government Code Section 8314 is even more explicit:
“It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”
The section defines “personal purpose” as:
“Personal enjoyment, private gain or advantage, or an outside endeavor not related to state business.”
In fairness, the law allows the “incidental and minimal use of public resources, such as equipment or office space, for personal purposes, including an occasional telephone call.”
The governor’s “counter” is an attempt to score political advantage and avoid personal blame by laying responsibility for the lack of a budget on the Democratic majority Legislature. It is a political message, pure and simple.
Given, as previously mentioned, the rather simplistic manner in which the $52.3 million figure is calculated, it cannot be argued with any success that some educational purpose is being served. The presence of the “counter” is an overtly political act occurring in a space financed by public resources.
Nor is there anything incidental or minimal about the display. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of visitors pass through the Capitol each week. It’s the rare person who does not seek a photo of the big brass bear beneath the faux gold letters glued above the governor’s doorway. Even the worst peripheral vision would fail to see the “counter” and its one-sided message.
Previous displays in the same window next to the governor’s office have touted volunteerism such as First Lady Maria Shriver’s WE program. That is a state program supported by taxpayer dollars and, unlike the current display, is appropriate for highlighting in a public space.
As the director of the department responsible for state buildings including the first floor of the Capitol – the upper floors are controlled by the Legislature, as you know – please promptly remove this illegal display.
CC: California Taxpayers’ Association, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Auditor General, Bureau of State Audits, Joint Legislative Audit Committee
Filed under: Venting
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