Dollars Without Sense

For 25 years, Harvey Ross has rooted out the waste and lies of politicians and bureaucrats. But some say he's too lost in the line items to see the big picture

"The supervisors don't want to engage in a serious policy discussion," says a former supervisorial aide. "They just want fodder to play politics and Harvey gives them that. He knows what side his bread his buttered on."

A high-ranking city administrator echoes this sentiment.
"Harvey's politics don't fall along ideological lines. They do, however, play out along the lines that Harvey wants his contract and he makes damn sure he does something at some point that makes every supervisor look good."

Rose would never admit it, but his 25 years of service have inflicted upon on him -- and the Board of Supervisors -- a sort of institutional amnesia. City budgets are crafted in crisis and immediately forgotten; supervisors slide, mostly disposing of legislation drafted by other arms of government. Rose coasts behind them, counting the beans but never commenting on the quality of the brew.

So where does the buck stop? Who is responsible for the strategic planning that will become increasingly important as Republicans gain more powerin Sacramento and Washington? One might say the board, but the supervisors' notorious penchant for squabbling among themselves over personality differences has prevented them from forming a unifying vision.

Like it or not, a measure of responsibility falls to institutional figures like the budget analyst.

But Rose has dodged this responsibility. Instead of serving as a wizened critic of government, instead of drawing on his breadth of experience to help the board make more intelligent choices, Rose has taken the path of least resistance.

Asked in an interview to draw on his 25 years as budget expert and identify the problem areas in government, the areas of chronic waste and inefficiency, Rose makes the telling statement.

"I don't know," he says. "I take it on a case by case basis.

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