Where did the pragmatists go? Common Ground…

As you may have seen in a previous post, I spent some quality time in Las Vegas recently with a group of college friends.  Mixed into that group were some additional friends of friends, mostly law partners and other attorney’s from one of my friends law firm.  While my friend would be labeled in his Orange County neighborhood as a “bleeding heart liberal” (as I might too), the reality is something different and the same could be said for the others with us.

Some broad generalizations about this group of intelligent, successful attorney’s and businessmen, which included my friends from college: wealthy, hardworking, many are the first in their family to be this successful, conservative on the surface but that depended on the subject. But the nicest part of hanging out with them was that I think we all got a good look at what could be in California and the US if we could get more folks together like us and make some changes.

We found common ground in our discussions that ranged from public employee unions, pensions, taxes, public education, college, etc. The kind of common ground that I don’t see our elected officials finding because of the vitriolic language and attitudes common in political circles.

We listened to each other and learned a little.  Those not involved in education thought that perhaps paying teachers more money would bring a higher quality educator, a great idea I thought but just one part of a bigger puzzle that we ended up talking about.  Smaller class sizes plus training and support for principals and other in the administration side should be included in that conversation. The leadership on each school site can vary dramatically and affect the entire school culture. This group of men understood the value of creating good leaders, in any industry or endeavor and by having a civil conversation instead of calling each other names, we found common ground.

Don’t get me wrong, this was done over many adult beverages and in between placing bets on basketball teams that sapped our my meager funds. We didn’t solve the worlds problems and were in a comfortable, friendly environment where we could kick ideas around without any real pressure from constituent groups.  But….it showed me that at least there are some realistic people around and gave some hope that we’ll pull out of this mess in California, some day.  When the Republicans decide that Grover Norquist doesn’t have the juice he thinks he does and the Democrats convince their friends in Labor that changes must occur for the good of the whole, maybe it’ll happen. Meaning, that when the elected officials have the guts to make the right decision, regardless of the consequences to their term limited so called “career”, we might see some improvement.

I think it was former Senator John Burton who said: “If you can’t take their money and still tell them no, you don’t deserve the money” or something to that effect.  Lobby groups can pay for “access” and take you to lunch but you have to be up front and clear with them that, while you appreciate the free meal (or contribution, or whatever) your position is your own and it may not always match with the lobbyist.

Others have said it before but maybe that’s what’s missing in Sacramento: wine, beer, betting and conversations.  I think I’ve heard the boys at Calbuzz lament this too…


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