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New Year's resolutions for Sacramento politicos

SACRAMENTO — From my skimpy research on New Year's resolutions, I've learned that 40% of us make them, and about 90% end in failure.

A dismal record of weak will.

Yet, New Year's resolutions should be encouraged because they're vital to self-improvement. They reflect at least a brief recognition of personal flaws and the need for betterment.

Therefore I'm proposing a few, mainly for Sacramento politicians. Never mind that I've tried this in previous years and mostly been ignored. So some resolutions are repeats.

The first is for Gov. Jerry Brown, and it calls for some background:

•Be more considerate of people, and not just those he regards as intellectual peers or is hitting up for political favors.

Inconsiderateness long has been a Brown flaw, regardless of such qualities as political brilliance and an ability to charm if he chooses. This defect isn't just limited to eating off other people's plates, an annoying habit.

Here's the kind of thing I'm referring to:

Early each year, California's governor traditionally has spoken to the Sacramento Press Club. The sold-out luncheon is a big fundraiser for the club's scholarship program that benefits college journalism students. Govs. Schwarzenegger, Davis, Wilson, Deukmejian — they all came, promoting their agendas, answering reporters' questions and helping students.

Brown has stiffed the club for two years running and is heading into a third. He basically ignores the invite. Just keeps the club dangling.

This is an old Brown trait.

The first time he was governor, in 1975, the state Chamber of Commerce invited him to speak — as governors always had — to a huge annual breakfast of California business leaders, industrialists and growers.

"We couldn't get a response from him," recalls Sacramento attorney John Diepenbrock, one of the event's organizers. "He wouldn't say yes, wouldn't say no. We were getting to the point of desperation."

So Diepenbrock, a Republican VIP with strong ties to the White House, invited the president of the United States. President Ford flew out, subbed for the governor, and the rest is history.

Ford walked across the street into Capitol Park en route to paying Brown a courtesy visit when Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme pulled a Colt .45 on him in an assassination attempt.

Fromme, from the old Charles Manson gang, served 34 years in federal prison. Ford, 17 days later, returned to California and another crazed, armed woman tried to kill him in San Francisco. The next year, Brown began accepting the chamber's invitations.

We'll keep the rest short.

Here are two resolutions for both the governor and the Democratic-dominated Legislature:

•Find some financial angels for your bullet train obsession before it breaks the state.

Yes, high-speed rail is cool. No, it isn't a freebie. It's very costly — $68 billion at last estimate. Only $13 billion has been lined up. But construction is about to start.

•Don't bank on fantasy money for any purpose.

No new spending program or tax cut should be enacted without it having an honest funding source.

The Legislature should resolve to do a bunch of things, including:

•Pass fewer laws.

Too many legislators believe voters actually care about their trivial bills that cost an estimated $20,000 apiece to process through the system. During the last two-year session, nearly 1,900 bills were passed, including 248 that were vetoed by the governor.

Time out. Enforce the laws already on the books.

•Get off their duffs in January and February and begin serious committee hearings on legislation.

There's too much time wasted because of outdated snail mail rules requiring adequate public notice. It's a rationale for procrastination. Everybody's on the Web these days.

•Do the public's business in public.

Nothing wrong with closed-door deals negotiated in the governor's or leaders' offices. But allow ample time for the compromises to be meaningfully debated in open committee hearings, even if that is inconvenient and politically risky.

After all, the public is paying for all this.

•Show some courage.

Democrats, stand up to environmentalists and untangle the anti-business regulatory muddle. Tell labor to cool it on anything that costs business or taxpayers money.

Republicans, stop quaking in fear of antitax demagogues and the gun lobby.

•Take a member of the rival party to lunch once a month. Develop new relationships and rhetoric.

•Cease those exasperating, counterproductive so-called news conferences with casts of thousands: lawmakers and special interests packed like sardines for a photo op that only impresses themselves.

Ditto any hackneyed "press conference" on the Capitol steps, especially when it's raining or 100 degrees.

•For the voters, here's a sensible resolution suggested by Long Beach reader John McKibben: "Don't sign any more initiatives about which you know nothing. Better yet, don't sign any initiatives at all."

•For column readers: Keep the e-mails brief and civil if you expect them to be read, let alone replied to.

•A resolution for journalists: Ease off on the overused words "historic," "reform," "crisis" — and "cliff."

We're in dire danger of "cliff" becoming another "gate."

That last resolution will quickly fall into the 90% failure pile.

george.skelton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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