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Well, here we go again. This time it's a homeless man having a run-in with the Salvation Army, of all things. Oh, well. All politics is local, as they say. And it couldn't get any more local nor any more political, could it? ... than a homeless man having a run-in with the Salvation Army?

     Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Ventura County. The big picture in what we've been trying to tell you is that the local community and the county as a unit cannot abrogate its responsibility to the voters so easily as to say that separate charities such as the Salvation Army are autonomous in administering public policy on homelessness. What is being attempted here violates a key principle from Business Law 101, which is to say that responsibility cannot be delegated. Authority can be, but responsibility travels only in one direction upward toward the point at which the buck stops as was pointed out so clearly by Harry Truman.

     What our poor homeless man is witnessing is an intolerable developing situation ... a case of rejection when it comes to citizen grievance, redress or the petitioning of local government with regard to that person's own homelessness. Those at the governmental level, confused as to the difference between responsibility and authority, have attempted to push responsibility down the ladder through a perceived glass floor, if you will, toward its appointed agents (Salvation Army, et al). The agents, on the other hand, are peering back though what on their side is essentially a glass ceiling on responsibility, saying that they've been given (delegated) the autonomous authority to do precisely as their corporate charter dictates ... no more, no less ... and that they are responsible to no one other than their members and stakeholders. Make no mistake. Government may have delegated the authority, but for government to have knowingly created this very clever blockade between public responsiveness and a sworn duty to its citizens on a critical public policy issue is simply outrageous.

     So what is this blockade, exactly? Its official title is the Public/Private Partnership, something that much ado has been made about in recent years. To some, this is all-encompassing, including any and all activity between private and public sectors of the community. Yet if we were to take this concept and apply it at the level of the human psyche, it would be called enmeshment ... a personality disorder and not at all a good thing.

     We were forced to counter an argument, put forward by a Dist. #1 Supervisor caseworker, by saying that this situation is absolutely NOT the same as a business person's prerogative in the decision to decline service to anyone for any reason. Simply put, retailer discrimination as a public policy issue -- thanks in part to globalized competition and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- is less than miniscule these days compared to, shall we say, the push for cleaner air and water. And yet this singular example, even when taken in the context of the fiery passions over racial and ethnic equality that continue burning to this day, gives us clear insight into the cause-and-effect relationship between the potential for harm to society and government's enmeshed physical relationship with public/private policy at the macro-economic level.

     Consider the following: homelessness; public education; public health; public safety and the election process in this country. Note the scale as well -- so identified as a result of their potential for reaching, either positively or adversely, into the lives of each and every member of the community, and yet all are potential targets for takeover by private interests. The first two have already altered course in this direction; the third is teetering; the fourth and fifth, while seemingly safe for now, have only to await their fate. And should a free people not see the value of treading lightly in these areas, those free people will witness the fulfillment of Dwight Eisenhower's worst nightmare when he warned, Beware of the Military-Industrial Complex. To this add the following: *Know of its arrival when the redress of grievances on all five of the above are lost to voters and indeed any citizen when non-elected officials and/or their corporate appointees are allowed to have it their way on public policy. According to the Preamble to the United States Constitution, "We, the people of the United States ... provide for the Common Defense (and) promote the General Welfare , this being if anything the most complete definition of public policy anywhere in literature, and as far as delegating the General Welfare into the hands of private corporations without the possibility of redressing grievances, we don't see this being spelled out.

     Is this happening in your community? How about that item #2, public education? If your city is going the charter school route, make a guess as to how long the PTA will remain influential, if it remains at all. And public libraries? If your civic leaders are thinking in terms of charter schools, your public libraries are already gone.

     E. Gibbon or Tolstoy, anyone?


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The following comments are for "Whose Salvation We TalkinBout, Capt. Army?"
by fritzwilliam

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