Leaving aside the dubious resume of the chair of Bob McDonnell’s commission to streamline Virginia government, we might want to consider whether this new commission won’t simply be repeating what former Govs. Doug Wilder, Mark Warner, and George Allen tried to do, all with mixed results.
I have a feeling that the 31-member commission that is supposed to report to McDonnell by the end of August is simply another way for the governor to recommend selling off the state’s ABC stores. Doug Wilder was the first governor I remember who advocated privatizing the stores, but his idea got absolutely nowhere, and I predict that this governor won’t get any further either, unless he finds a way to keep revenue going annually into the General Fund approximately equal to what state-owned stores produce now. There is one result of privatizing that would help localities, however. Liquor stores would be on local property tax rolls.
I really don’t know what yet another commission report will accomplish, especially since Gov. Warner’s report was presented just eight years ago. Plus, relaying on 31 people to agree on things is practically nil, so I expect that Fred Malek and several other businessmen – along with staff from the governor’s office – will write the report that McDonnell gets.
No one has asked me, not will they, but I do have a couple of suggestions for the commission to look at, none of which I expect them to actually study. After all, I’m not a banker, a politician, or an executive in big business. But, here goes…
Here’s my first suggestion: The commission should look at the excellent results that have been achieved by the Iowa Charter Agency program. Basically, this program allows agencies willing to adopt the program “to be held strictly accountable for measurable benefits in return for exemption from many of the state’s bureaucratic requirements.”
The results in Iowa have been quite remarkable. Six Iowa agencies accepted charter status in 2003: the Department of Revenue, Department of Corrections, Department of Human Services, Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Veterans Home, and the Alcoholic Beverage Division.
Those agencies, in the first year of the program, produced savings of $22 million. In addition, the turnaround time for permits went down, the failure rate of prisoners on probation decreased, the speed of issuing tax refunds was better, and citizens reported improved service. It’s pretty obvious to me why. The people who actually do a job are the best people to find ways to do that job better, not some CEO type or politician who never worked in that environment.
My second suggestion for something to be looked at is just a personal gripe. I’ve often wondered why Virginia cities have both a professional police force headed by a chief of police, plus a sheriff’s office and sheriff’s deputies who simply run the jail and transport prisoners to and from court. Why not fold the sheriff’s department in cities into the police force, with the jail and court deputies under the leadership of the police chief, thus eliminating the position – and the large salary – of the sheriff?
My final comment is simply to agree with Paul Galuszka of Bacon’s Rebellion who wrote in the Washington Post,
What Virginia needs even more that streamlining is jobs…Badly-hit areas such as Southside and Southwest Virginia with double-digit unemployment can’t wait…McDonnell managed to pay up to $14 million in state money to get defense contractor Northrup Grumman to move 300 high-paying headquarters jobs from Los Angeles to Northern Virginia. Let’s hope he can do something for out-of-work Virginia textile and furniture workers, as well.