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Much is being written and said about the results of the recent Government Review Commission’s final recommendations and many metaphors have been used: “shifting the deck chairs,” “moving the boxes” or “shuffling a deck of cards.” I liken it to playing solitaire — the two ways to play are either by suite or by alternating suites. Much of what is proposed consists of switching from one form of play to another, but not changing the game.
Not only does the review commission proposals of shuffling programs and divisions between departments not look at true reform, it also calls into question the real motive behind the commission. For example:
• The proposal to increase the dollar threshold for public advertising of construction projects from $25,000 to $100,000 and remove the advertising parameters calls into question the ability of minority and women owned businesses (predominantly located in the urban areas with daily newspapers) to know about projects and bid on them. Ought not we be looking at ways to increase minority and women owned participation in government bids?
• Transferring from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the First Step Program only re-enforces the misnomer that the program is a health or insurance program and not an education program — a move that clearly gives the “good stamp of approval” to the governor and legislature’s faulty budget decisions.
• The finally agreed upon proposal to have the Department of Health and Senior Services examine services provided by the Centers For Independent Living is better than the original proposal of direct elimination, however, it still reeks of the political fallout of the budget discussions earlier in the year.
• Proposals such as the ones which affect the University of Missouri Chancellor reporting on or creating cabinet level Secretaries of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education to “Send a message” or “Frame the debate” have no place in a government review commission — it only further fuels hidden agendas.
Nowhere was the Review Commission asked to review or respond to a core question, which should have been asked from day one: “What is the role of government?” Real responses, which would truly help Missourians, could then be discussed.
I would propose that each of the report’s final recommendations be scrutinized under the microscope of our state motto: Does a proposal support the premise that “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law”?
Are Missouri citizens’ rights to a clean safe environment, to protection from corporate and business special interests, to fair and equitable taxation, to access a government (which does not give out state or federal funds in a vacuum) to access to health care or to an education that is free from political influence being improved? And then ask the question of WHAT MUST BE DONE TO FURTHER INSURE the welfare of the people of Missouri?
If these questions cannot be answered then perhaps the commission should take the full time allotted for conducting its review and really look at “reinventing” government rather than merely playing a new hand of solitaire with their buddies in a smoke-filled room.
Dianna Moore is executive director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, a 105-year-old social justice advocacy organization with membership throughout Missouri.
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