Burlingame accountability is not petty politics
A $75 million mistake in a community of 6,000 residents drains $12,500 per resident from our balance sheet. It can never be restored. It was money needed for a more responsible and responsive housing program.
The issue is city management ” not politics. It’s the integrity of voter information ” not politics. It’s about fiscal responsibility ” not the politics of housing. No political interests benefit from confronting the problem. Finding answers is solely in the general public’s interest.
Some current and former officials are crying “politics” on James Perry’s request for an investigation by independent counsel, just as they did when the flawed Burlingame information was discovered. Rachel Richards describes it as a “low point in local politics.” Mayor Ireland ascribes “sinister agendas” to the task force. The low point, instead, is when leaders frame this serious management issue as a political one. The request for an independent, objective inquiry seems solidly appropriate, and, in fact, the proper apolitical way to address the confusion and begin to restore city management credibility.
I encourage Perry also to take his request for independent legal inquiry to our City Council as he considers taking it to the district attorney. I trust that our City Council would embrace the request as the way to bring sunlight to burn off the dark cloud that will otherwise hang over Burlingame, our housing problem and city finances in general.
The city has stated that the bad information was merely an unintentional “language error,” with no negligence, recklessness or intent to misinform. It would, therefore, seem logical that the city would welcome an independent legal examination to quell the questions, the suspicion and the attempts to politicize the issue, positioning us to “move on,” as they repeatedly request, to complete Burlingame.
The issue is too important to categorize in tired old political rhetoric. Regardless of one’s political leanings, we surely agree that having reliable and accurate data is fundamental to responsible management, meaningful ballot measures and the democratic process. We must understand the cause and cure of the system breakdown in the May 2005 election before the community will regain confidence in the management systems and information it produces. The future of the important Burlingame project will be tarnished otherwise. While the CPAs and management-consultant reviews are important, they are only part of the picture. We also need assurance that election laws were not violated with the voter information distributed.
I call on City Council to proactively address these questions. I urge them to do so in a style that transcends petty politics. These are matters of public process, transparency and the fundamentals of democracy.
It is time to stop talking politics and deflecting the focus, and do the much harder work of determining the root cause of the errors and addressing those problems without fear. If we fail to ensure the integrity of voter information, we might as well stop having elections. What is the point, if voters have no better information than in Third World countries, where elections are merely a thinly disguised show, pretending to be democratic?
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