Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The slow death of democracy in America

If you live in a small city, say population less than 100,000, and you are upset about something the goverment is doing, it is very easy to find the mayor and give him a piece of your mind. This is less helpful than it used to be. Mayors and other elected city officials have less and less control over local affairs. Much of city funding now comes from states along with state mandates that local officials are powerless to change.

This process is continues to evolve. The State of California has given authority over local zoning and development issues to unelected regional government organizations. In the San Francisco Bay Area, this regional bureaucracy is known as "OneBayArea." To maintain the pretense of democratic approval, OneBayArea holds "public workshops" to discuss their plans and get public input. Participants at past workshops report, however, that workshop leaders claimed they couldn't answer questions because "there wasn't time" exposing the process as a sham. In the upcoming series of workshops, they are trying a new tactic: they are limiting participation and requiring pre-registration, a process which likely favors politically preferred groups.

If OneBayArea decides that your city must rezone its downtown or build high-density housing someplace inappropriate, who do you complain to? You are unlikely to get face time with the Governor unless you are known as a successful campaign donation bundler. You might be able to complain to your state assembly representative but he is but one of 120 legislators in the capitol and likely not even on the relevant oversight committee.

The end result of this process is that, in a maze of overlapping layers of bureaucracies, responsibility is lost.

The bureaucrats like it this way.

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