Recall that saying “a camel is a horse designed by a committee?” Having helped design a couple of camels, I can tell you there is a lot of truth there.
If you look it up – you can look up most anything on the World Wide Web today – you’ll find descriptions about the ineffectiveness of group decision-making and trying to fit too many conflicting opinions into a single project.
Governor Haley Barbour created the Commission on Educational Structure to craft a plan to consolidate 50 or more school districts for the purpose of reducing the cost of government. The commission’s report was due in April. They’re still at it.
The consultants hired by the commission dissed the Governor’s idea. Instead, they recommended consolidating about 20 districts, not to save money, but to improve school performance.
News reports suggest commission members have many conflicting opinions about their assigned mission. Many dislike forcing consolidation on any districts. Others dislike basing decisions on “arbitrary statistics.” Others don’t want to impose on okay-to-great school districts by burdening them with governance of not-okay districts. School bus drivers won’t know the new routes. And so on.
A vote on a final report has been put off again.
I smell a camel birthing. Based on the groups’ stalling and the negative response to the Governor’s proposal, I fully expect the commission to issue a report wherein “consolidation” resembles “con-stall-negation” and they rigorously justify their acts of inaction.
Dear citizens, this is why your government just grows and grows and the demand for more and more taxes does likewise. Committees, whether it be this special commission, an appointed board, or the Legislature itself, struggle to make and implement difficult decisions.
One of the camel’s I helped create is now called the Department of Finance and Administration. A formative goal under the Governor Bill Allain administration was to have an executive agency that would help keep the lid on government growth. Didn’t work out.
What can be done?
Success comes from empowered leadership, not committees. You’ll see a strong, empowered Superintendent at well-run school districts. You’ll see a talented, driven, and empowered director at well-run state agencies, like the Mississippi Development Authority.
The lesson is simple. If you want government to be efficient and regularly pruned, you must empower competent leaders to do just that. And, that’s something we in Mississippi are so reluctant to do, especially when it comes to cutting or eliminating programs.
The Governor asked the Legislature for authority to cut and eliminate.
The solution is quite evident, the will lacking.
Then, there’s that saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Could the forthcoming tax increases be that straw?