Wait long enough, and good things happen (or at least, promise to happen)

You know, I hardly know what to say about the story in today's paper about the emerging consensus that DHEC should be a Cabinet agency, except maybe, "Duh."

Yes, as we've been saying over and over with great vehemence for a really, really long time, DHEC — and the state DOT, and the state Department of Education, and every other EXECUTIVE agency in state government — should be directly accountable to the person ELECTED to be the chief EXECUTIVE of the state, instead of answering vaguely to an unaccountable board, or a separately elected executive, or whatever.

We've only been pushing hard for this for about 18 years. Before that — before the "Power Failure" project that I led here at the paper that launched this long advocacy — a string of independent studies since 1945 had concluded that yes, the state should indeed make its executive agencies accountable by instituting a Cabinet system. It had not happened because too many elements in our society, from lawmakers jealous of executive power to insiders who knew how to game the byzantine system to their advantage to people who just didn't understand the issues involved, were unwilling to let the change happen. Or lacked the will to push hard enough, even when they were sold on the rather obvious idea.

So while it is but a piece of the puzzle, and it's been far too long coming, I will applaud and cheer loudly for this latest initiative, and hope that this time, the rational thing actually happens.

Just give me a moment. I'll get duly excited about this… I mean, Otis Rawl and Phil Leventis agreeing with John Courson on this is very, very encouraging.

8 thoughts on “Wait long enough, and good things happen (or at least, promise to happen)

  1. Doug Ross

    Call Bobby Harrell up today and ask him if he supports the move. If he doesn’t, it’s dead.
    See if you can get him to answer in one word. “Yes” or “No”. No equivocation. And is that Senate meeting on Wednesday open to the public? If not, why not?
    I’ll admit to being uninformed about the workings of the state legislature. Can they hold a meeting in private with no recording?
    Every single meeting should be recorded at a minimum and broadcast live via the web. If a 12 year old kid in his bedroom in Iowa can put a webcam up, why can’t our government?

  2. Ralph Hightower

    I think that the Department of Commerce should be a cabinet agency!
    Oh, wait. It already is!

  3. bud

    Anyone who thinks making these agencies cabinet agencies will make any difference is a damn fool. The governor is such an idiot he’d make everything much, much worse. Whenever the State uses the term “accountability” you better run. Things are likely to get much worse. I know, I’ve been there. It’s a fools game.

  4. bud

    Brad, instead of acting like a cheerleader on this why don’t you go back and see how the last restructuring act went? Don’t equivocate and say something vague like: “it didn’t go far enough”, just say how it benefited the citizens of South Carolina. Were the roads of our state safer after we lost hundreds of troopers and highway maintenance workers because of the inefficiency foisted on the newly created 3 agencies that needed additional IT units, accounting staff, procurment, human resources? And don’t get me started on those damn smelly, expensive trailers used by DPS for 6+ looooong years. And what about the hundreds of employees who had to move multiple time. That’s what all this talk of “accountability” gets you. One big f****** mess. Now that we’re finally recovering from that debacle I say we should just leave things alone. The general assembly is just not capable of making things better through restructuring.

  5. bud

    I’ll make this easy on you. The restructuring bill was passed in 1992 and it created a new semi-cabinet agency called the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (effective 1993). For most of the first couple of years of it’s existence it focused on startup costs and not on it’s mission of making the the highways safer. The result? In 1992 South Carolina had 807 traffic deaths and had a mileage death rate of 2.3 per hundred million vehicle miles of travel, about 31% above the national average.
    After 7+ years operating out of the trailer park SCDPS, as a semi-cabinet agency, was able to “improve” the safey on SC roads “significantly”. Traffic deaths in 2000 went to 1,063 with a mileage death rate of 2.4, a rate approximately 58% above the national average.
    This is not a liberal or conservative issue. This is about efficiency and effectiveness. The public was NOT served well by the much ballyhooed restructuring of 1992 and it won’t be served well by any new attempt to stir things up. It’s fools gold.

  6. Brad Warthen

    There’s nothing I can say that will please you on this, bud. You either see the logic in having executive agencies answer to the elected chief executive and the illogic in having them answer essentially to no one, or you don’t. And since you call me a “damn fool” for seeing it the way I do, after having spent years and years of my life studying and thinking about it, call me a pessimist, but I’m not overly optimistic about my ability to help you see the logic in this.

    But increasingly, even some of the staunchest opponents of restructuring ARE waking up and seeing the logic.

    In fact, an excellent example of this is the one that you misleadingly cite: Public Safety.

    As you semi-acknowledge, bud, Public Safety is NOT a Cabinet agency — although it certainly should be. In the 1993 partial restructuring, lawmakers deliberately limited the governor’s influence over the agency.

    That’s why, when all the Highway Patrol video scandals started breaking last year, the governor WAS able to force out the top two guys, but had NO say over whether the offending troopers kept their jobs — because the governor has no day-to-day control of the agency. Here’s an editorial we had last year explaining all that.

    The irony is that some previous opponents of restructuring such as Rep. Joe Neal were persuaded by the Public Safety furor to back REAL restructuring. The fact that the governor COULD do what little he did in that case convinced him that the governor should be able to do more in terms of keeping state agencies accountable. Here’s a column Cindi wrote about Rep. Neal’s conversion.

    Hopefully, those links will help some of you follow my point and agree with it. Bud isn’t going to follow my point on this, because he doesn’t want to. I’m not going to be able to give him a statistic or something that numerically proves that the Cabinet system makes more sense. You either look at how government actually works in the world and conclude that it does, or you don’t.

    And even when you have a governor as disappointing as Mark Sanford, some accountability in the executive branch is better than none.

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