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Paul Wolf- Center for ReInventing Govt.

May 18, 2014|

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It's hard line on news radio 930 that he'd be here and good morning this is -- -- Have you noticed whenever people talk about government and politics. A lot of times the discussion revolves around the role of government the scope of government how much should they do. What do they end up doing. We've got some interesting numbers to kick around in that regard. Paul -- this year he's an attorney he runs -- basically consulting practice a little bit of a think tank called the center for reinventing government. He's a former chief of staff of the buffalo City Council. And he's a guy who has decided to put some numbers on that this entire debate what does government do well -- he's crunched the numbers. And a coming up for the whole next. Half hour at least we're going to be talking about some of his finding. Paul thanks for joining us thanks for having me. We only have a minute or two here before the news but I wanted to get into what what you have found let's look at the Erie county legislature for example. Huge amount of work big staff always doing a lot of things and in this past year comics today actually do how many bills. Did they pass while in 2013 as far as actual laws they passed one law. One correct and your contention is that. One law is really offset by. Proclamations. Honors street Manning's the kind of popped free stuff that gets folks reluctant correct if you look at the what. Over the 2013 -- legislature filed 725. Resolutions. So one out of 725. -- actual legislation and law correct. It's kind of shocking when you dig into the details. I would have thought certainly that there was a lot of the the ceremonial stuff. But 725. What do what do they what they include gimme gimme again it. Other 725. About 400. Ire with a calm miscellaneous resolutions and those honors community groups honor individuals someone who you know retiring after twenty years of service -- certainly nice gesture year. Another 200 plus honor people who recently passed away. Again another a a nice gesture but should really be spending tax dollars in staff time. It takes time to write these documents up file -- Outside of the 725. Items. Less than a hundred actually dealt with some issue. Most were honoring people. And in large part I think you give me the perfect point to to tease our next segment coming up after the news should do just a very brief so what forming. They're not doing anything what what is the implication of this and what can we talk about the next half hour after the news. Well I think part of the implication is is they they give people the impression that they're very busy. And you know it cost a lot of money to pay for elected officials and staff and it's tax money being used art and we'll get more into it right after this it's hard line. On news radio 930 WB yeah. It's hard line on its radio and I entered that would be -- on this -- ego. This next half hour we're gonna take your calls about the scope of government the size of government the effectiveness of government. Am going to look at it through a lens of what they actually do what have they achieved. Paul -- this year is an attorney he's a former chief of staff to the buffalo City Council and these days he's the guy behind. The center for reinventing government. He's a guy that has done some studies about legislative output and seriously what they have done over the past year. If you with this before the news -- we got into a little bit -- Erie county legislature and 2013 past one count them on law. And it passed 700 and how many proclamations -- 725 resolutions resolutions okay. Things like street names or an honor of someone who died that sort of thing correct. Now I ask you this before the break but I think it's a way to get back into the conversation. So what what's wrong with that. Well I think I think. Legislators give people the impression that they're very busy if you look at a typical meeting agenda it looks very busy there's lots items on the agenda. They have staff. They're paid well. But when you drills down into the details now whole Lotta substance is being accomplished and I don't know if people really -- realize act as most people don't take the time. He -- to look at the entire agenda and analyze. It is substance strictly laws though the buffalo city council for example I know was heavily involved and should this junk -- locate here should -- sign permit go up outside this restaurant. Should they be allowed to put a patio outdoors a kind of neighborhood issues where you quote may be argue. A city councilman should be involved that the legislature. Has to be involved in voting that kind of stuff. I would agree that substance is more than passing laws. There's certainly other things and elected officials do as far as responding to constituent concerns. But I think first and foremost there job as legislators whether the city councilor Connie legislatures to set policy. Two take on a leadership role regarding. Bigger picture issues and items a constituent work is always being done. But. I think where are lacking. Leaders that are taking initiative nine. Bigger items and worst stock I think in minutia. Smaller items why are they like it is the product of who these people are in and the system basically. I think it'd take a look at is how did people become an elected official. And many elected officials come from a particular path and that path typically. They have -- patronage job prior to becoming an elected official. They were committee members in either democratic or Republican Party. I mean that's not a bad thing but you they learned early that the culture of the way to get ahead is to not Rock the Vote. If you wanna patronage job he got to know the right people he got to carry petitions support their candidates and don't make trouble. And so when you get elected. I think you can. Bring net with you you learn that the way to get ahead is to not make waves that make enemies. This ally low -- and and don't take all the big issue and the idea of not making waves. On one hand. And being a leader on the other are often at odds with each other we have a leadership -- here correct. To me leadership is about initiative leaders take initiative leader for leaders propose ideas they've proposed tackling. Tough issues. It's all part of what I looked at in my study is is. Who's proposing. Anything higher art is are there any legislators opposing items of its substance or of any nature. And saw this kind of interesting to see this wide variety in the numbers who is number one who's the idea guy or -- Well in the buffalo common council number one by a large margin is Darius Persian. Natalie in 2013 but in 2012. In 2013 he filed 26 items there were only 77 items in the council of some substance -- third of those items came from him. He's very active very busy -- to his credit he recently became council president so he's an active guy. I'm a long way and so we have -- is bridging a 26 resolutions on the low end you have -- -- -- who filed to. Sort of shows you the the range effect a majority of the council members five of the nine filed less than four items. In the top ire Trajan. Fontana the -- Smith and -- belonged all right now what about the county legislature whose number one. Advance through ideas there. Well -- that's a lot tougher because you have 725. Total resolutions. Less than -- hundred dealt with. Any issue of some sort. And then. Of those hundred half of them were just simply calling upon the federal government calling upon state government to do something. I -- -- about an issue right affect you know supporting the minimum wage increase things of that nature. It's purely symbolic. So you know when you drill it down legislator Hardwicke had a couple items. Substance as far as having legislative meetings in the evening. Things of that nature. Which must not pass because they certainly don't meet -- evenings. I want to read you commentary. From politics and why dot net. It's a site run by Mike Caputo who people certainly occurred here on this program report former campaign manager for -- Palestinians gubernatorial campaign. And a political operative who wanted to keep this this political commentaries -- alive. And when your report first came out one of his commentators I -- Peter Livingston wrote this talks about your numbers and -- goes on to say. That would be a terrible waste of money if that's the only reason we elect a legislature it's not. He then goes on to say I applaud the legislature for the only passing one law last year. Every time the legislature or another body passes a law -- Serbs to restrict certain rights. He then goes on to say that what the legislature does do act on the are not always good. And then he talks about the role of legislatures as you say to sort of urged certain actions rather than advance laws. Law's restrictions civil liberty. Curbs the kind of thing that are a real libertarian would say. -- aren't required that that not passing laws is an okay thing. Is this surveillance yardstick then to measure the effectiveness of government if not passing laws. Some people's mind is is okay. I'm not as troubled either by the lack of laws being passed I have a libertarian streak in me as well and I don't think we need you know I would love to see some laws repealed. I don't think we need you know all kinds of new laws. But what I did take a look at is 725. Resolutions. And that in our tax dollars were spent. That lacked. It's substance. Basically what those resolutions are doing our -- favor. Trolling for votes mean arm -- remember I did a nice being recognizing your mother who passed the way. I just don't know if that's really what we should be spending tax dollars and legislative time time. I'm not troubled by that the lack of laws being passed but I am troubled by what we are spending our time. And let's look at it with a little bit of a jaundiced guy this is what politicians do. I mean every places like this did you -- study other cities and by the same thing well never replaced does it to that degree I think the Connie legislature does this fire is symbolic resolutions even the buffalo common council to their credit. Passes very few resolutions honoring individuals they don't pass any resolutions honoring deceased people. Or is the kind legislature just hundreds of them. When you look at the City Council in Rochester. Very different than Buffalo's City Council members in Rochester are part time. Buffaloes -- as well but Rochester or pay half of what Buffalo's paid the Rochester City Council meets in the evening. Buffalo does not Rochester has a part time staffer council members buffalo has full time staff members and Rochester. You don't have to go on front of the City Council to have me. Permit granted to her way -- outside restaurants that's done administratively not with a vote correct it's all handled by a particular departments in Rochester and buffalo if you wanna open a used car lot of corner store you have to get approved by the City Council that's not the case in Rochester and -- area. It's 8030930s. Or number at its core when we look at these numbers we are kind of talking a little bit about leadership. Oftentimes in the discussion of what's wrong with the city any city. Or what's wrong with government you hear people say there is a lack of leadership -- your time chime in on that particular aspect of it. Maybe you're someone who has a politician you'd like to praise or politicians like to -- 8030930s. Number. Maybe -- like Peter Livingston commentator we mentioned earlier who says -- passing laws not passing laws is an okay thing. We need smaller government either way we like to hear from you 803 on 930s number. Paul -- is here he's from the center for reinventing government. And let's kick it off for you mentioned Rochester this moment ago let's kick it off a call from Rochester -- and you're on the air. Good morning gentlemen. I applaud your pretty close to my whole way of thinking. Government at almost all level. It really is dysfunctional. To argue why. Because unfortunately we are representative government. Shall we elect people to do our will. Unfortunately. They failed to do this. With an 8% approval ratings of congress. In Atlanta it's Barack. When someone who is. I congratulated at your congressmen. Your party leaders say congratulations now this is what you're gonna do and as long as we have a representative government that do not -- and our weight issues. Or are we going with this whole thing. Well you make a good point. Unfortunately. I think the public is to blame in a lot of ways as well. You know. A lot of people. Don't follow what elected officials are really doing. I think -- legislators get very few calls asking them to. Support bigger issues bigger items what they do get calls about are the constituent concerns you know fix my sidewalk -- my street. So that's what elected officials spend their time on I think rather than the bigger picture issue. I wonder I gotta wonder if even 50% of the people in this country know what the vice president did you know all about legislators about -- it. Probably dig at what -- congressmen whatever is trying to do what they want you probably don't. I do think stand though that certainly people might not know Joseph Biden but on the local level. They know their guy is because he's local. A little more. A little more but I don't care it's quantity and that they're preaching to acquire people don't care. All right stand great stuff. If you're on -- stay right there will get tomorrow the calls after this Paul Wolfe is here he's going to be with us a little bit after the top of the -- choose -- don't think Auguste were running out of time. Enough time to get your calls and enough time to save what you need to talk about. 803 on 930s a number of more after this it's hard line on news radio 930 WB. Paul -- is here he's done since studies looking at the legislative output of both the buffalo City Council and the Erie county legislature. Using the legislature is one of these samples in the past year many thirteen. They passed one count them one law. Compared to over 700 other resolutions proclaiming the goodness of people and wonderful things that happened in west York. 8030930. Is the number let's go right back to the calls and we will be taking a few more after the news break at the top so if you're on hold stay right there. David in California welcome back haven't heard from you in the long time. Greetings from San Francisco. Yeah I mean it was interest in this from the angle of united just stand divided -- fallen and the idea they. In the old days of say a hundred years ago when they had this. Traveling. Minstrel shows. You know the guys stand and selling some kind of not stroman. You know he might be selling some kind of fake medicine that with. You know I have to open time and what not and if he got out of town with your money and everybody I've got sick. Basically. That's why these laws were created in the first place so that you wouldn't be looted. By news you know traveling hucksters. Basically had no no. Sense of good will towards this society's religious hucksters. So nowadays what we've seen these major corporations. Basically if you use your credit card. Whether it's at McDonald's or you know in this some change store. That money is sucked out its -- it's sucked out of the state it may be in the Cayman Islands by the time you get out the door. And the idea is that these major corporations have turned cities and towns in the colonies. And that they no longer invest in the local town. They basically have no desire to invest in the local town if we try to raise the minimum wage on -- To be able to -- to get more money to stay in the local town they fighter and they with Citizens United and he's Supreme Court ruling that are saying that corporations are people. And that they have the right to spend money buying our politicians. That is not. Any kind of of social contract. So you're saying you're saying it has reached the point where these outside interest have so much power. That legislators. Really can't can can be forgiven for not doing anything because they have no power anymore -- is that the point. Well I wouldn't say they can be forgiven I think that the the politicians need to stand on the street court you know if you look at Sam Adams for example. Guys who who was standing on street corners get in his -- beaten. On a regular basis for thirteen years or 1776. Talking about this same sort of colonization economics. And the idea that it took somebody with courage. And courage to take up beating for thirteen years before he came down our -- generally goes down in history is as. Founding father of America but he was due and a hard fight and these politicians are not. Doing the hard fight to. To warn us about colonization economics. I'll let Paul come -- and well let me you raise the issue I think essentially about the influence of money in politics and that's one of the things I've looked at at the local level as well. You look at it's kind of interesting any mayor brown. How -- one of the poorest cities in the country how is it that a mayor can and a port city can raise one point three million dollars and campaign contributions. And his opponents. Had you know. Bernie Tolbert and under 200000 dollars Sergio Rodriguez 26000 dollars. Basically the election is over before even begins. And and is your point there that it's it's over because again these outside. Influences buffalo doesn't have the kind of money that was. Going into the brown coffers well I think it's -- local influences I mean it you're able to raise one point three million dollars because you get money from people have a job or wanna job. People that have a government contractor want a government contract. And it's very hard to compete with that same thing at the buffalo common council the average council member raises about 26000 dollars for their election. The average challenger 11100 dollars it's it's over before it begins there's no real competition in a lot of ways. How. Does that influence. The whole leadership question you're talking about are you saying that because of people that contribute their campaigns. There have been there for less likely to pass regulation to pass legislation. Well you know. Money is given for -- reasons people give money I hope people give my because they want good government I think typically people give money because they want something. And when you collect money running for office it's a lot of IOUs you have to pay back somehow some way. I mean even at the state level governor formal raised 33 million dollars mean that's an incredible amount of money. A lot of I L used to pay back in many ways Stephen in buffalo we'll squeeze in before the top of the hour preemptible will sticky on the other side too thanks for coming on and. Thank you it's a little bit difficult listening to Paul -- complain about local government and action all world. You worked in City Hall for many years you collected your big -- all your benefits from your patronage jobs. You know we all will be even going to fundraisers for politicians anxious about the politicians for decades and never had a problem in any event. Never raised a red flag never had a problem with any event but now that the political -- of changing -- out. Now all of a sudden a light bulb go off in your mind and you have a problem I'm just saying that you know to be part of a system for years and years decades. To get yours to get out and then turnaround. There's a problem but that's just a moment there that I just abuse for decades I was part of that I had a great time. My pockets -- -- My benefits when I -- And now I'm gonna turn around and complain. But now it's bad now it's bad analogy for well decades well collecting your big sellers like execute. Why did you raise their right now -- I raised a lot of issue while I worked in government I advocated for reform. I did not support -- endorse candidates while losing government which caused a lot of consternation is. I walked away from government I walked away from an 80000 dollar a year job and health benefits 'cause I was sickened by what I saw I quit. Gigs lot of people certainly wouldn't do in my position do you think the government you were a part of this better than the one you're criticizing. Now I don't think it was any it's any different now -- then. I think it's the same but. Even with -- government I advocated for reform a lot of people didn't like it. But I did the best I could from within and now that I'm out I could easily say I'm done with that I could care less I'm passionate about. Reforming government all right Steven -- called catch up only because of time now because of what we're saying we have to take a break for Jews will pick up more up on the other side. Paul -- is here from the center for reinventing government. He's looked at the legislative outputs of places like the buffalo City Council in the Erie county legislature. The legislature for example passed over 700 resolutions but just one -- this past year. Let's direct back into with the phones 8030930s. The number. John and righteous you've been hanging while thanks for doing that you're on the air. They gave me all the well you know up. You know you mentioned voters being part of the problem I I'd I think war more in the probable on to the media. The Buffalo News would -- -- of our -- the democratic chronicle here in Rochester. You can name newspapers across this state and community newspaper. -- -- we use -- their editorial goal. Eddie did what they -- recorder and what they reported -- -- -- and really this -- a lot of the problems we have well you know. I felt like the idea at all. Well -- the legislature only Pepsi one wa. They're just nobody wants -- look at the New York State Legislature I figure for fifty or sixty belt laws in the process. At one time in the New York State Legislature and at that too many but we yell at Chester mineral county you had mentioned seek help what are are all. Legislature here -- -- -- -- future is 29. Our members and you know I think indicate that your economy is Dallas site and I think that's probably know Kevin Golan is. In. He he's been in favor of downside legislature and I think he gave wolf in sheep's clothing in let. We're gonna get a read all about it -- legislature or local level is more centralized control from Albany and Washington. And I think that -- a probable what are your there. Great questions go at all. I agree that certainly we could have better media coverage -- first local government goes and in the buffalo new certainly has some information and it's hard to get you know in details on TV news with you know 32. Clips. But I would agree that we use a better do you mean more concentration on issues are bigger variety of issues. What are you saying when you say better because people like a stand would say well that too -- liberal. I don't really I'm not really concerned whether it's liberal or conservative I wish there was more coverage. You just want more correct okay. What about the idea of downsizing you've studied the Erie county legislature a couple of years back they did downsized. And now this report from -- says they're they're not putting a lot of things out I favored downsizing certainly it's an incredible how many legislators there -- in other areas in the 29 in Monroe I think Albany has even more. So Erie county legislature and eleven is one of those smaller legislatures and accounting but. I think he notified quite honestly instilled do what they're doing which isn't a whole lot of substance. -- the case being made the I think when you point to them only doing one law and over 700 resolutions. You're you're saying they need to do more -- the case be made on the other side of the coin and -- they need to do more therefore they need to be baker. I would disagree I mean there's an eleven has -- to have staff. They're not hurting for our resources. I think it's just a matter of taking the initiative to focus on some more issues of substance Tony and Clarence hi you're on the air. Yes the -- that you. That are under that although we mr. elements that they cooperate as people that's not correct. They kind of cooperation. As a kind of mental person -- able to racial issue. Yeah I don't think people -- -- people period. Secondly. I think what I would like to say that we hit it absolutely is little government responsible. And at talent. -- -- and the ticket because the audience. Italy prime rate is -- government is that I. Like you and you're not a bad idea. How to share a lot of attention stopped it and it. -- Know what it could have been that. Tony Tony you're breaking up so much that I'm thinking I'm gonna have to let you go here but I wanna give you a chance that it sort of refocus the question before we do. How does what you're saying apply to what Paul has been looking in terms of legislative out. They're -- I can't keep -- up. Well we will have -- political. We're trying to understand -- you're breaking up just too much and I apologize for that. Paul were you able to get enough from that comment I -- he said he supports downsizing in government night due to. I don't have a problem with less government eyes and said earlier at a primary with only one lobbying past. I'm but I think we need to have more discussion more debate about substances volumes doesn't have to necessarily be laws in your mind though it points to a lack of leadership a lack of people putting forth. Ideas for discussion threat -- Peter and would be Ontario wrapping up force in the final. It's right there ought not do it's been a great. Partner quickly what are you at this -- it -- it could collapse right. Now. We know. That they're right it's not so. They're. -- -- respect yeah let it blatantly. We. Let it Baker's story come up they bought it at all. Nationally it's actually. They need to get a walk. Or so -- people on a local level. On this level. And audit Ultrapetrol apple and no pretty turner acted it out and support there -- -- -- -- -- not -- -- You know what can happen nothing would go over. Again so Paul its sounds -- here's another caller saying the lack of output is in part due to media bias. And again I don't know about media bias at the local level quite honestly I'm. What concerns me is like the last mayor election in buffalo when they did polling so few people even knew who the candidates where. And if you read the buffalo knows every day or watch the news on TV every day they frequently mentioned Bernie Tolbert sure Sergio Rodriguez but yet. Most people didn't know there were with other candidates -- to me that's just a lack of attention -- -- are you using that as an example all of those candidates work on this program. Except mayor brown who didn't want to. I I don't know if you can say it's the media's fault for not trying. In some cases I think you could say it's the politicians. Fault for not being a part of it. Because it incumbent does not know why do that because that's the system because that's the way it rolls. I would agree again I think there is. Sufficient enough coverage that people should have known there were other candidates running for mayor but yet a lot of people this for whatever reason didn't now. Bottom line you want the media to do more issues sure want the legislators to do so for -- record -- Paul thanks for coming in this is -- thank you that's Paul Wolfe from the center for reinventing government.