Best and Worst 2014

by Raphael Bostic

When we started the Bedrosian Center Best and Worst in Governance feature, our goal was to highlight what’s going on in the field. And while we thought that instances of poor governance would provide clear teaching moments, we thought it was equally important to give a shout out to those doing good things. Moreover, success often goes unrecognized, even when it involves hard work and considerable leadership and innovation.

Our first year of Best/Worst has flown by, and it has been as good as we hoped. The response throughout 2014 was strong, and the awardees have all been noteworthy, with lessons to be learned from both the good and the bad.  We asked you to decide who was the most noteworthy and the responses yielded three “winners,” with a tie in the Worst of the Worst category. So, in the spirit of last week’s Oscars, the envelopes are ready to be opened.

The title of “Best of the Best 2014” goes to…

The figure you chose as the Best of the 2014 Best in Governance selections was the January 2014 choice, California Governor Jerry Brown. When Brown was elected Governor in 2011, California was widely viewed as ungovernable.  The state had endured years of deep budget problems, and neither the legislature nor successive Governors had found ways to change the structural challenges.  Enter Brown. With his very visible personal austerity, his willingness to take on some sacred cows, and his successful campaign to pass a referendum that raised taxes – something nobody but Brown thought was possible – the Governor ushered in a new era of budget management at the state level.  Through Brown’s leadership, California is back in business.

The title of “Worst of the Worst 2014” goes to…

Two institutions associated with the uniform: the VA and the Ferguson, Missouri police force.  In the spring of 2014, we learned of a systematic effort to misrepresent – and overstate – the quality of the health care that veterans were receiving from VA hospitals, with the result that vets were put at more risk than they should have been. This would be bad under any circumstance, but it was made all the worse given that the patients in question had risked their lives on our behalf.  And just a few months later, we watched as the Ferguson police force fumbled in their response to the tragic shooting of an unarmed black youth, first trying to stonewall the public and media and then working to discredit the victim.  The damage done to the relationship between the police and the residents of Ferguson may take years to repair.