A Tale of Two Governors

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by Jeremy Loudenback

For the Bedrosian Center’s first Best & Worst in Governance awards, attention turned to a pair of gubernatorial leaders. As CEOs of their states, governors enjoy a privileged opportunity to direct policy, but they also have the responsibility to ensure that government institutions operate smoothly, collaboratively, and efficiently, working toward common goals.

Best in Governance

California Governor Edmund G. Brown
California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Winner of Best in Governance Award for January 2014

California Governor Brown

Earlier this month, Gov. Brown’s State of the State speech served as another exclamation point on his superb track record in bringing California back from an abyss of budgetary woes and legislative gridlock during his second go-round as governor of the Golden State. Since his heady days as governor in the late 70s and early 80s, the onetime Jesuit seminarian has mellowed into the responsibilities of his job and adapted a more pragmatic persona. After assuming the office in 2011, Brown quickly turned his attention to the state’s tangled finances. A deficit of $25.4 billion dollars has now been transformed into a surplus of $5.6 billion, making California one of a few states to enjoy the luxury of discussions about how to spend extra money. With the help of a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature, Brown has created a climate of productivity in Sacramento, though he has not been shy about rebuffing Democratic allies to forge a financially flexible model built on prudence. While nary a word was uttered by the governor in his speech about the controversial issues like the Delta river tunnel and the expensive high-speed rail project, the governor’s efforts on issues like immigration, healthcare, and climate change have highlighted California’s ability to move faster than the federal government in many arenas. Even with a mammoth drought facing the state, few would doubt the state is in good hands with the Jerry Brown and his famous First Dog, Sutter Brown (“bark if you hate defiicits!”), at the helm.

Worst in Governance

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Winner of the Worst in Governance Award for January 2014

Georgia Governor Deal

You might have thought that images of Atlanta last week were outtakes from the latest apocalyptic zombie potboiler. A freak snowstorm that dropped a couple inches of snow and ice across the South left an amazing residue of dysfunction and disaster in its wake. In Atlanta, congestion rose to unprecedented levels. Drivers were stuck on highways for hours, with some spending the night in their cars, and schoolchildren were left stranded at some schools without provisions. Some city residents had to find haven in a CVS drugstore or other makeshift shelters to wait out the storm. Mayor Kasim Reed deserves some blame for the meltdown that overwhelmed the city’s infrastructure: an order from his office told all of Atlanta to exit at the same time instead of staggering different groups (school, private businesses, public sector employees, etc.) at different times to relieve the burden of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets at the same time. His tweet on the day of the storm, bragging about the city’s readiness, doesn’t look good, either.

However, as the governor himself said, the buck stops with him. Deal did not help his cause by bizarrely claiming the storm was “unexpected” and putting off preparations even as nearby states were making arrangements, including treating the roads. Most of all, for an area that already suffers from a lack of state coordination and support, the governor’s lackadaisical efforts intensified the problem. As Politico explains, the snowstorm exacerbated several problems endemic to the greater Atlanta region, including its populous suburbs and bedroom communities that feed into the city itself. The Atlanta metropolitan area is Balkanized web of local government, with more 60 mayors often struggling to find reach common ground on policy issues, including badly needed transit expansion. (Sound familiar Angelenos?) Instead, vital operations are spread out across several different counties and cities, leading a lack of coordination that was exposed in the disastrous events of last week.

Thank you

Thanks to all voters who submitted a wide range of candidates from Pope Francis to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. We invite you to stay tuned and send in your nominations for good and bad governance for February.

With many different issues at forefront of the news, it’s always a good time to think about governance.

 

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