Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ambush governance: The Markell style and State Treasurer Chip Flowers

State Treasurer Chip
Of course it would be set to happen on the last day of the legislative session without advance notice or committee hearings.  That's the Markell way.

You must remember the current manufactured controversy between State Treasurer Chip Flowers and the Cash Management Policy Board in the context of these earlier Markell actions:

--removing all the members of the hospital review board who disagreed with him about approving a new rehabilitation hospital in Middletown; and-- 
--seeking private counsel (not the Attorney General's opinion) on how to skirt the Coastal Zone Act so that he would be able to claim attorney-client privilege, and then allowing DNREC to keep other opinions from the Attorney General's office secret--

You must also remember that this controversy has both political and policy aspects.

1.  The Politics

You trust these two to reduce
transparency in the State
Treasurer's office without
real debate, don't you?
The Democratic establishment has never liked Chip Flowers, going back at least as far as when he successfully primaried incumbent Velda Jones-Potter.   His support from the Democrats was so low that he almost lost what should have been an easy race to Republican Colin Bonini.  In other words, the highest-ranking African-American in State government is considered by the Democratic leadership to be a little to ... uppity.

Perhaps, like Jack Markell (who was also State Treasurer), he should have waited his turn until Jones-Potter was ready to leave the office.  That's how Markell played it when--according to the Delaware Way--it was then-Lieutenant Governor John Carney's "turn" to become governor.  He stepped back like a gentleman, and ...  Oh.  Wait a minute.  He didn't, did he?  Jack is now governor because he defied the state party establishment and primaried the party's nominee.  Never mind.

Also note (as the News Journal does in today's unusually comprehensive story by Jonathan Starkey) that one of the loudest complainers on the Cash Management Policy Board is David Marvin, a large Markell campaign contributor.  (How large?  The WNJ doesn't tell you and I can't, either, because the Commissioner of Elections' online campaign contributions page is suddenly down.)

So politically here's what you have:  an upstart African-American politician with obvious aspirations for higher office despite Democratic establishment preferences being whipped into line at the last minute of the General Assembly session by a former upstart politician with obvious aspirations for higher office who now controls the Democratic establishment that once tried to turn him way.

Sort of like pulling up the ladder after you got yourself out of the burning building ....

2.  The Policy

Strangely enough, although the conflict between Flowers and the Cash Management Policy Board has been going on since literally the first day he was in office, the Markell administration didn't decide it was significant enough to request legislation through the normal channels through all the weeks and months of the current legislative session.

Equally strangely, is what is missing from the argument made by the administration:  that any of Chip Flowers' decisions have harmed the State financial situation in any way.  If Jack Markell or David Marvin could point to one, be assured that they would.  What they are upset about is that (a) Chip has ignored their advice; and (b) Chip has hired his own independent investment advisor (whose advice, presumably, differs somewhat from the Board's).

Ironically, this is exactly what Jack Markell himself did with the hospital review process and the Coastal Zone Act.  Apparently that's only acceptable policy if Jack does it.

More to the point, the legislation is also intended to exempt the Board from the Administrative Procedures Act (transparency) because it must act really swiftly in volatile markets.

That's funny:  in all the years and under all the State Treasurers before this (including, ah, Jack Markell) there was never any reason seen to exempt the Board from the Administrative Procedures Act.

Except that Governor Markell simply does not like government transparency in any way, shape or form, as the people who asked questions about the Governor's infamous no-so-public Charter Schools Working Group can attest.

There is also a piece of highly unintentional irony in the synopsis that Senator Patti Blevins wrote (or at least copied after Markell handed it to her) for SB 151:
This Act clarifies the original intent of the powers of the Cash Management Policy Board which are to protect the state’s investments by providing oversight.  Furthermore, this Act clarifies that the Cash Management Policy Board is exempt from the Administrative Procedures Act due to the fact that decisions need to be made in a timely manner as a result of changing market conditions.
Since when did Democrats in Delaware (or anywhere, for that matter) suddenly become originalists?

The arguments against SB 151 can be summed up in the following bullet points:

1.  No harm has been demonstrated by the current arrangement of authority.

2.  Government transparency is manifestly reduced by this legislation.  Exempting the Board from the Administrative Procedures Acts also exempts them from having to publicly report their moves after the fact.

3.  Changing policy simply because of a personnel conflict is always bad organizational management.  What happens in two or four years when somebody intransigent (at least by the current governor's standards) gets appointed to the Board.  Will we then see legislation giving the authority back to the State Treasurer.  This is a wrong answer all around.

4.  Changing a policy of this magnitude by ramming it through the GA at the last minute is simply bare-knuckle politics, not good policy.

Call your legislators:  I know it is obscure from most of our lives, but it is a continuing example of Jack Markell and Delaware's Democrats respecting no limitations of good policy-making or government transparency, and it should be defeated.


kavips said...

David Marvin $35,950....
Mr. David Marvin $600.00
Nancy and David Marvin $1200.00

Markell 2008 $1200.00
Markell 2012 $1000.00
Velda 2010 $ 450.00

Watch the vote on this one...

Lopez 2012 $1200.00

But his biggest $25,000 goes to the PAC A Committee for A Better Future ...

Watch these votes tomorrow...

Bryon Short 2009 $600.00
Melanie George Marshall (then) 2009 $300.00
Pete Schwartzkopf 2009 $600.00
John Atkins 2009 $600.00
(Markell 2010 $3,000)
Daryll Scott 2011 $600.00
Helene Keeley 2011 $600.00
DelDems 2011 $6,000
Dave Sokola 2011 $600.00

So, that should give you an idea on how the vote will go...

kavips said...

Suddenly the happenings in this past legislative session make a great deal of sense.

Nancy Willing said...

you are on fire, Steve!

Anonymous said...

The current administration should be voted out!! Enough is enough. They made a BAD deal with Bloom Energy, let them find their own funding. Numerous elected officials, would not have voted for it, if the Read everything! Fisker, another bad deal. TERM LIMITS!!!