Sanfelippo’s Assassination of the Wisconsin Idea

By Robert Miranda

Newly elected state representative Sanfelippo says that his resolution to create part-time positions on the county board of supervisors is motivated by his desire to have “good government.”

I have no reason not to believe that that is what Representative Sanfelippo is trying to achieve with his campaign. 

However, Sanfelippo’s “good government” campaign is not about a government that is dedicated to the Wisconsin Idea of government. His notion of good government is a government that practices the business model of governance. His is a government model that turns away from spending in areas that present a risk, such as poverty and shying away from political matters, such as inequality.

For Sanfelippo, government’s effort to bring about the best possible benefits to citizens at all levels is expensive. Spending money to safeguard good health, safety, parks, and investing in a high standard of living befitting our human dignity, are expenditures that should be pigeonholed because spending in areas to achieve these conditions at all levels is a waste of taxpayer money. 

Staying the course of the Wisconsin Idea, where governance establishes a framework for fighting poverty, inequality, and many of humanities’ other shortcomings, is an expensive proposition for business-minded politicians with affluent backgrounds.

Clearly, if Sanfelippo and County Executive Chris Abele believed in the Wisconsin Idea of governance, they would use the authority of the State to further the process by which a society organizes its affairs and manages itself by working internally to improve government efficiency. 

Instead, they seek out the authority of the private sector to establish policies and the processes, or organizational mechanisms that are necessary to replicate the industrial/corporate model designed to produce and distribute services and goods based on bottom line limitations, rather than on human needs.

Government necessary to serve people, not profit

What Sanfelippo does not understand is this: governance is not just about how government, businesses and social organizations interact, and how they relate to citizens, it’s also about the county’s ability to serve citizens and other actors, as well as the manner in which public functions are carried out, public resources are managed, and public regulatory powers are exercised. To reduce the board’s ability to interact and engage in these efforts is to weaken county government’s ability to run an efficient government that controls institutions the voters pay for rather than special interests controlling them.

Establishing the corporate governance model within the framework of county government will mean that the business of the county, as per the desires of the powerful elite, will move in a direction that places resources in those areas that do not present a risk or loss to the government.  A limited and weakened board of supervisors will most assuredly guarantee this.

Sanfelippo’s Corporate Governance concept makes sense to business-minded people, having interaction between board of supervisors and management in shaping the county’s performance that reflects “good government” is healthy and establishes a relationship between the supervisors and the managers limiting conflict between them. In a corporate setting, such an arrangement is required, because the desired outcome for all involved is to maximize profit. 

And this is where Sanfelippo and Abele miss the mark with their Corporate Governance campaign. Government is not a place where the providers of finance guarantee themselves of getting a maximum return on their investment. Government is not the institution where managers are the deciding authority. In government, the functions/tasks of elected officials and managers should be clearly defined to ensure proper checks and balances.

Sanfelippo and Abele’s actions are counter-productive. Their way of governance allows for uncontrolled concentrated economic power to be placed in the hands of the corporate elite who seek to utilize government as nothing more than a brokerage firm. 

Stopping this agenda would preserve what the Wisconsin Idea is all about. The notion that the business of government is to serve the people and restrict the power of corporations to prevent their interference with the needs of individual citizens, must be preserved. We want honest government and applaud economic growth, but to limit the voters’ influence in government and dilute democracy at the risk of public morality, should not be supported and must be defeated.

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Last edited by tyler schuster.   Page last modified on January 30, 2013

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