Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | September 13, 2005

Holding feds responsible is a right and a duty

Michael Evans’ recent letter to the editor perplexed me. How is my noting problems with the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina different than Evans’ noting problems with local officials’ response? Clearly, there must be a difference, if Evans could justify scolding me for listing problems with the federal response and then go on to list problems with the local response.

It finally dawned on me: I can vote for federal representatives. I can’t vote for New Orleans’ mayor, Louisiana’s or Alabama’s governor. The same is true of Evans, a Gilroy resident, and everyone else residing in this newspaper’s circulation area.

So, my pointing out the problems with the federal response is demanding accountability. Upon observing problems, I can communicate my concerns to my senators and congressman and vote for other candidates if I’m not satisfied with their responses.

By the same token, then, Evans’ letter listing problems with the state and city response is a prime example of playing politics and pointing fingers. Neither Evans nor I have any control over who residents in the storm-ravaged regions elect to local posts. They’ll have to hold their local officials accountable.

But when a big earthquake hits Northern California – and it will – FEMA officials, not the mayor of New Orleans, will respond. I want to make sure FEMA will handle it better than the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. I want to make sure that, unlike New Orleans, important federal projects to protect my community are fully funded and efficiently and competently implemented.

I’m hoping that the Hurricane Katrina debacle awakens among citizens a new demand for government accountability. We pay the federal government more than a trillion dollars in individual taxes every year. Everyone in government, from the president down, works for us. Let’s demand competence and efficiency.

We shouldn’t put up with unqualified political appointees in any position. We shouldn’t abide unconstitutional restrictions on the news media. We shouldn’t tolerate decades to review Native American sovereignty applications. We shouldn’t accept 50 years to complete a local flood control project. We shouldn’t brook obscene water district reserves and simultaneous water rate increases. We shouldn’t endure chronically late state budgets. We shouldn’t listen to spokesmen spew spin in lieu of substantive answers to legitimate questions.

We shouldn’t condone ineptitude in any public employee. They work for us, and we must demand that they do their jobs and do them well.

In short, I’m hoping that as a result of Hurricane Katrina, voters will become mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. Holding our elected officials and public employees accountable requires three important steps: Paying attention, communicating with elected representatives, and voting.

Speaking of letters to the editor, Michelle Hayton’s sarcastic “thanks” to Simon Salinas for casting the deciding yes vote on an Assembly bill allowing same-sex marriage inspired me to offer thanks of a different kind.

Assemblyman Salinas, please accept my sincere thanks and genuine admiration for your courageous vote on this issue. You did the right thing in voting against discrimination. Given that you face a difficult race against a far-right opponent in Jeff Denham, your vote was doubly courageous.

Those who say that Salinas cast an anti-family vote are wrong. Salinas voted in support of families. Salinas clearly values all families, including those that happen to be headed by gay or lesbian couples. Those who oppose gay marriage ought to be ashamed when they try to tar same-sex marriage supporters as anti-family.

Those who claim that the one-man, one-woman, 2.4-kids family is the “natural” family conveniently overlook the fact that families have taken diverse forms throughout history and across societies.

Those who say that this law subverts the will of the people obviously forget our own nation’s history. Perhaps same-sex marriage opponents would like to also restore laws supporting segregation, slavery, and antimiscegenation, because, after all, all at the time they were overturned or repealed they would have been – and in some cases, were – upheld by popular votes. It took leaders, visionaries, and activists – like Abraham Lincoln, who Hayton quoted in her letter – to force society to correct these misguided laws.

I do agree with Hayton on one point: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who quickly promised to veto the same-sex marriage bill, does need to hear from Californians. I urge everyone supports same-sex marriage – and many of you have written to me after other columns on this topic – to contact Gov. Schwarzenegger to encourage him to do the right thing by signing AB 849.

Write Schwarzenegger at State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814. Call 916-445-2841 or send faxes to 916-445-4633. To send an email message, visit

And, Michael Evans, before you ask: Just like my check for the American Red Cross was written before last week’s column, so too my email to the governor was written before this week’s column.


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