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Sharing the burden

POSTED February 1, 2011 11:17 p.m.
We’re all in this sinking boat together, so we had better quit fighting and start rowing in unison or else we’ll end up at the bottom of the ocean. That is my summary of Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address from Monday.It was somewhat inspirational and called on the innovativeness that Californians are known for to lead us into a brighter future. But before we can focus on our soon-to-be bright future, we have to deal with the financial mess that is the California state budget.Instead of heaping all the responsibility for our journey out of the abyss on the captain and his crew, however, Brown wants the passengers of the vessel to make the decisions.“My plan to rebuild California requires a vote of the people, and frankly I believe it would be irresponsible for us to exclude the people from this process. They have a right to vote on this plan. This state belongs to all of us, not just those of us in this chamber. Given the unique nature of the crisis and the serious impact our decisions will have on millions of Californians, the voters deserve to be heard,” he said on Monday.

Yes, Brown is looking for the people of California to come up with a solution to the state’s biggest problem.

“If you have solutions that are truly viable, by all means present them. We need everyone’s best thinking,” he said.

As a parent, I can see where Brown is coming from with this suggestion. If you make the child a part of choosing the method of punishment for misbehavior, then he or she is more likely to find the punishment “fair.”

Because, really, Brown and the Legislature are in a no-win situation. There is no magical solution that will instantly balance the budget, while providing the services Californians are used to getting and depend on to make ends meet.

This tactic of involving the masses in making decisions is also used in the business world.

Entrepreneur Magazine reported in the story “Employee Benefits in Today’s Economy” what happened when one technology management firm in St. Paul, Minn. decided to share with employees important information about the business’ finances.

Next Level Café’s co-founder Rich Anderson met with the company’s 25 employees and told them the truth: The company wasn’t at risk of failing, but it wasn’t a great year and that meant fewer bonuses and perks. He also started sharing information about the company’s expenses and income and posting the names and revenue of new and former customers on a wall as a daily reminder of where the company stands.

"As soon as you (pull a perk or benefit) without having employees involved in the process, they're going to resent it and fight back. They're going to use it as a reason to leave if they're looking to leave," Anderson told Entrepreneur Magazine. "If you get them involved, they'll support the decision. They'll embrace the world that they helped create."

I applaud Anderson and his transparency and shared governance-type company model, however, balancing the needs and wants of 25 employees and getting 37 million Californians to come to a consensus — or majority vote — on any one issue is something else altogether.

But, I do have hope for California.

As Brown said, “We have the inventors, the dreamers, the entrepreneurs, the venture capitalists and a vast array of physical, intellectual and political assets.To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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