Gamblers can only see as far as the next roll of the dice. Even worse, too many elected officials have acted like “The Cincinnati Kid,” risking the hard-earned dollars of the residents of the greater Sacramento region. Lawmakers’ shortsighted laws and tax-policies have created costly burdens on businesses, farmers and ranchers, and encouraged a speculative housing boom (no income verification required!) – while paving over farmlands – that ushered in this destructive financial bust. The laws that stand in the way of preventing the predictable outbreak of catastrophic fires that spew tons of pollutants into our air and threaten our homes must be fixed. Ideological policies have snarled simple road projects in red tape, emptied our water reservoirs, increased our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and created mind-boggling budget deficits. Like Gulliver, the hands of well-intentioned policymakers are often tied down by the epidemic of slavish devotion to special interests.

The lesson of 2008 is that we must ensure that federal, state and local governments reform themselves to focus on cost-effectively achieving their fundamental missions of protecting citizens’ safety and security. Government shouldn’t get distracted by trying to perform numerous minor functions that individuals and private associations can do for themselves. From my experience working for the California Legislature, as an elected Auburn City Councilmember, and as Chairman of the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council – frustratingly dealing with a federal government that acts like an absentee landlord of public lands – it is clear that there are many areas for improvement to provide more practical solutions. As the recession deepens, government officials in 2009 must examine every budget line-item and enact creative reforms that result in superior performance, more transparency and accountability in all our operations. With this focus on mission, the greater Sacramento region will emerge stronger for the future.