Thursday, February 12, 2009

How Will She Manage?

Barack Obama tapped former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to run the Department of Homeland Security because of her claimed expertise on border issues. But Napolitano's ability to manage one of the largest federal bureaucracies is being called into question, indirectly, by her successor in Arizona, Jan Brewer, who complains that accounting gimmickry and poor management during Napolitano's watch left her with a huge mess.

The Arizona Republic earlier this week:

"Calling herself "very angry" and "furious" about the fiscal condition she inherited last month, Gov. Jan Brewer lashed out Friday at the former gubernatorial administration and warned that bleak times await Arizona. "We have very deep valleys ahead of us," said Brewer, a Republican. "We are facing very, very critical times. I'm very angry, basically, that Arizona is in this shape that it's in."

Brewer went on to call the situation, which includes a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, a "product of mismanagement," and to liken the state's fiscal condition to "the Titanic."

"She pointed to what she called budget gimmicks and rampant borrowing in recent years that enabled the state to keep spending in the face of a slowing local and national economy. "It is the responsibility, I would assume, of a few legislators and the last administration," Brewer said, ostensibly referencing Napolitano and the handful of Republican lawmakers who sided with Democrats to pass recent state budgets."

Brewer, in a wide-ranging critique, also took aim at photo radar speed enforcement, a signature program of Napolitano's, saying it is "inherently wrong" to use law enforcement as a revenue raiser for government. "I hate it," Brewer said of the program, which state legislators currently are re-thinking.

Napolitano's people dismiss Brewer's critiques as partisan whining, since she's a Republican. But the statements can't help but sow doubts about whether Napolitano, whatever her experience with border control, has enough managerial moxie to handle day-to-day operations at the massive DHS. The department's budget now hovers at around $50 billion, while Arizona's budget is less than $10 billion.

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