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Platform : Federal Shutdown: ‘What a Foul-Up Democracy Can Have’

CHRISTINE SHEA, City Council member, Irvine

At a local level in Orange County we’ve been experiencing some of this political chaos related to budget and financial issues this past year. I do think that we’ve come to a point at all levels of government [where] there have to be definitive budget cuts. The public needs to understand that we cannot have business as usual.

[But] I think we’ve gotten away from elected officials being statesmen. We’re losing some of our credibility. We need to get back dealing with issues, working together, finding compromises in a way that sets standards [especially for] our children. It’s very important we remember that our public presence sends messages. There is a standard of behavior from a person in leadership, just like a parent in a home.

Not that you can’t have strong opinion or heated conflict. It’s how you deal with it. We have to show the public we work for that we can be firm in our opinions but still gracious to one another. But [from] the infighting I’ve seen even in our state Assembly with some of these recalls and the dirty verbiage back and forth, it’s come to a point that we, as elected officials, have got to start calling upon our internal fortitude, our ethics [and] our character, to say, “It’s got to start with me. I’ve got to be able to deal with conflict and disagreement and stand up for my priniciples but in a way that allows the public to see some decorum and a statesmanlike presence.”

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YI SHUN LAI, Senior, Claremont McKenna College

Whoever it was who described the budget impasse in Washington as a “food fight” was so very accurate. It’s not even so much a food fight as it is this haphazard, random dealing with things.

It’s so confusing right now because the government is out there to keep things running for the American people but here we are with a major shutdown. Formerly, I very much respected Bill Clinton for the job that he was doing amid all the turmoil that was going on in the world of politics. But now we’re talking about a major shutdown over something that we should be able to solve. It’s ludicrous. It’s absolutely preposterous. And it makes me have very little faith in our government. It makes me want to move to Canada, really.

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We’re seeing a little bit of the two-party system failing right now. [I’ve] always thought that the whole system needs to be revamped. From speaking to other people, most think that there is going to be a “flaming middle of the road” kind of perspective to [what’s coming].

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ART NAVARRO, Mayor, City of Commerce

If this had occurred in the City of Commerce, we’d have people protesting right outside our City Hall steps complaining about [the] lack of social services or quality of life that we promised our residents.

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It’s very unfortunate that leaders in this country cannot come to a settlement regarding this budget issue. It doesn’t make [any difference] what side you’re on. To me, it’s embarrassing that leaders who are respected and viewed with admiration by the whole world have come to this impasse. That’s something that both Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Clinton have to be aware of. It’s a shame that our country has shown the world what a foul-up democracy can have.

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DICK CROWELL, Social studies teacher, San Fernando High School

The [budget impasse] is a really neat, timely and appropriate tool to explain government to kids. It just happens to be one that doesn’t have a lot of sex and violence and those kinds of things that kids at 16 and 17 are normally attracted to.

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In my government class I’m using the budget issue to explain how laws are passed, the role of the branches of government, the separation of power, checks and balances and how political parties play a role in this.

After the students are exposed to the issue and what’s going on, they become more interested--enough to discuss it in class. But I wouldn’t say there’s an overwhelming desire to be more informed on the budget issue. Quite frankly, these issues and the individuals involved seem to be rather abstract to my students. It’s something they’re not interested in for the most part.

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SHIRLEY FANNIN, Epidemiologist, director of disease control programs, Los Angeles County

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During a working week we have almost daily contact with the [federal] Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. We give them information that may form part of the disease picture in the United States. We consult them on local issues that we need to have more information on or we exchange information of a communicable disease or disease control nature. If too many people are not available [at the CDC] it just delays our problem solving.

We’re in a major, major crisis here in Los Angeles with the meltdown of our health system. It’s going to take us years to recover, if we ever do, and sometimes I get the feeling that our representatives forget about who they’re representing and what it means to represent people 3,000 miles away who depend on government services for their safety and their livelihood.


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