Virginia Capitol Connections Summer 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 21 When the Republican Party of Virginia, the GOP, selected Glenn Youngkin to be its nominee for Governor in 2021, I was asked by many to discuss my thoughts on his candidacy. As I noted then, Youngkin’s candidacy had various elements rooted in a view that has been characteristic throughout this country’s history. To wit, government should and can be run much like a business, and the government’s chief executive position (whether president, governor, or mayor) is akin to that of the chief executive officer (CEO) job in the corporate world. Thus, a candidate with little or no experience working in government is not a liability, and is actually a strength if we want to improve government performance. Unfortunately, that assumption is often incorrect both theoretically and practically. Many of the various government reform efforts which have been tried in our country’s history are founded in the view that the government should be run more like a business, which will lead to greater efficiency, effectiveness, and economy (the three E’s for good/better government advocates). For instance, the Progressives at the turn of the 20th century maintained the trade-offs characteristic of machine politics and legislative-centered governing throughout most of the 1800s led to wasteful government spending and various types of corruption. The Progressives maintained that if the nation wanted better governing, we needed to separate the administration of government from the politics (read: policy making) of democracy. Likewise, in the 1920s and 30s, Progressives at all levels of government in this country claimed that legislative focused democracy, as seen in the federal constitution andmost state constitutions at that time, should be altered to have presidents, governors, and mayors be the focus. For instance, the Brownlow Commission in the mid-1930s claimed the office of President needed help and should be given extensive tools and staff so that the president could become the CEO of the country. As a result, we now have, at all levels of government, an executive-centered government wherein legislatures and the people usually look to the executive branch to lead the country (or a state or a locality). Notwithstanding the merits of such claims, theoretically theVirginia Constitution, much like the federal constitution, mandates that the powers of government be shared between the branches—no matter how inefficient, ineffective, and uneconomical the results may be. Such power sharing is designed to make sure no one branch can dominate and tyranny is avoided.We have already seen the results of this power sharing arrangement during Governor Youngkin’s first General Assembly session, as the state Senate is controlled by the opposition political party and a number of his initiatives were never enacted by the Assembly as a whole. While such results may be disappointing to the Governor’s supporters, in both theory and practice, incremental change is hardwired into the governing system of the country and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Moreover, no matter how successful a person may be in the private sector, the government runs differently, due in part to the differing motivations which underlie the various sectors. The public sector is designed to reflect the public’s will (however difficult and messy that may be to define), and satisfying that will may be costly. In the private sector, focusing on profits typically drives a company’s interest, even if it may mean the public, or certain parts, are harmed in the process.When the public demands programs and policies from their elected officials and said officials are responsive, concerns about the aforementioned 3 E’s often become secondary (see the government’s response, at all levels, to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hardly been a model of the 3 E’s). Likewise, while private sector organizations can and, some may argue should, focus on the bottom line, government organizations, like bureaucratic departments led by a governor, have to focus on constitutional values that do not lend to achievement of the three E’s. For instance, the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Virginia Constitution have due process clauses. Fundamentally, due process clauses force the government to go through a process, before taking away things like life, liberty, and property from the citizenry. So, while it would be much more expedient for government to “just do it” (to quote an old Nike slogan), supreme governing documents do not allow such actions. So, while the current governor may attempt to do things differently than his predecessors in the position, and even granting Virginia’s parttime legislature leads to a focus on the state’s executive branch most of a given year, the Virginia governor still has to share power with the legislature and can be checked by the state judiciary. Even if there are business techniques Governor Youngkin may want to implement within the executive branch to achieve greater efficiencies and economies, the lawmaking power is shared with the legislature, and various state laws and constitutional provisions may limit how much the Governor may be able to achieve. In reality, governing in the public sector requires different skill sets, process navigation, and cultural awareness than what one may encounter in the corporate world. It does not necessarily mean a new governor with extensive experience in the private sector world should not try to shake things up in running the Commonwealth, but I think we should not be surprised if Governor Youngkin is not all that successful in achieving all that he promised when he ran for the office. Government is different. John M. Aughenbaugh is Associate Professor of the Political Science Department in Virginia Commonwealth University. A Private Sector CEO as Governor?By JOHN M. AUGHENBAUGH Most unmet need for affordable rental units is in 10 localities See JLARC Report on Affordable Housing, continued on page 23 JLARC Report on Affordable Housing from page 17 V