Thirty years ago it sounded fine when Democrats set out to save North Carolina from the wickedness of a Republican Governor firing Democratic state employees – they were ridding state government of nasty old politics.
But it didn’t turn out quite the way they expected because, when all was said and done, they’d created a new tribe that had never been seen before in North Carolina.
Back then, the new tribe began its journey in unchartered territory but its first members quickly adapted and prospered, learning a wise bureaucrat avoided controversy (like the plague) and with a modicum of common sense could happily avoid the strain of long hours and hard work.
When Governor McCrory arrived in Raleigh the seeds planted three decades earlier had flowered and flourished like kudzu.
After he was sworn in, the Governor learned the state’s bureaucratic elite had been steadily working on NC Tracks (a $500 million computer program) for a decade and, a little shocked so much time had passed, he told them, No more delays. Let’s get it done.
Six months later the bureaucrats reported the program was ready to launch so the Governor pushed the go button – and there was a meltdown.
The same thing happened when he launched another computer program, NC Fast.
Then the Coal Ash spill hit him right between the eyes and, by then, the Governor must have begun to suspect what he needed most were not people to set policies but people who could fix things and, maybe in the next breath, he figured out he was caught between a rock and a hard place – because the people he’d just ordered to fix the coal ash ponds were the same people who’d failed to fix them for decades.
A less patient man would have proposed getting shed of the state personnel laws so he could get shed of bureaucrats who’d mismanaged a $500 million computer program but, instead, the Governor made a milder request: He simply asked the legislature to make it a little easier to replace a neglectful bureaucrat.
It’s hard to tell what he expected but his proposal was greeted with a howl of outrage. The press let fly. The Democrats let fly. The bureaucrats let fly.
Giving the Governor more power to fire bureaucrats, the State Employees Association said, would lead to corruption.
Now, even in a fallen world that’s a bleak picture: Because Democrats set out to prevent wickedness thirty years ago, today, to avoid corruption we have to protect bungling.