Thursday, September 03, 2009

Praise Where It's Due

I have been critical on this site (and most places I've bothered to write or speak) of our legislators' lack of curiosity regarding the outcomes of the program they fund with taxpayer money. So I have to give credit to Assemblymember Hector Delatorre of Southgate. The commentary below and decision to audit the system represent a surprisingly thoughtful first step on a long road toward capable legislative oversight of DDS.

Given that a letter from vendors was cited as a reason for the audit, you can imagine why whistle-blower protection plays such a big role in Delatorre's presentation. That wouldn't have been on my list of first topics, particularly because client confidentiality and the vagaries of client choice make proof of retaliation unlikely even upon granting whistleblower immunity. Whistleblower protection could be a useful cog in some future accountability machine, and any of you who read this blog frequently know how I feel about accountability. Still, only a vendor could think this was the best beginning.

But I have to say, I was impressed by Delatorre's grasp of the subtler point that regional centers function as much as government agencies as they do as non-profit public benefit organizations. That isn't as obvious as it is true and the Assemblyman brings up points in the video below I had certainly never thought of. This issue has a stomach-turning potential to turn out in strange ways if explored in depth, and many of those ways might be sort of sinister. But I'm going to guess that restructuring the system away from regional centers or absorbing them into the apparatus of the state is far far beyond anything the legislature will be ready to handle soon.

I'll confess I'm a little concerned about the feedback the audit will receive. If the audit committee were auditing the vendor community, quite a bit of the feedback from other stakeholders would surely be scathing and some of that unfair. In this case, the same is likely to be true. People like to come forward with a complaint. Sycophancy is also a risk.

At some later point, I might write something about opportunities and risks that loom behind this survey. But, for now, kudos to the assemblymember for taking an interest in our system.