The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Meeting, 26 Aug 09: Debtors’ Jailhouse Rock

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 27 August 2009

1. Summer Update – a Monty Python-esque “I’m not dead yet!” reminder. Just about all the programs that you know and love – ASA, club resources, FCC, etc. – will continue operations. A few bullet-point notes of interest:

-The town hall idea still straggles along, striving for relevancy. The first one will be held September 16, 4-5 PM in the Kiva Room.

-ASUA will now be focusing the charity efforts of all its programs and services towards a single institution, which this year will be the Diamond Children’s Medical Center.

-ZonaZoo will be implementing some version of the point-rewards system that Sen. Nick Macchiarolli proposed last year. The details are still in the works, and won’t be revealed until ZonaZoo’s own press conference, but the impression is that rather than determining access on the basis of other events (i.e. students that attend non-major sports events have preferred access), attendance at these ‘Olympic sports’ will simply be entered in a drawing for a prize.

2. “Revolving Door” in 40 different languages. Jason Ernst, former ASUA senator, was unanimously approved as director of Wildcat World Fair.

3. Budget Blues. Treasurer Clifton Harris’ presentation on the budget was the obvious highlight of the meeting, and all the professional sheen in the world couldn’t cover up the damage. ASUA is highly fortunate to have received a $900,000 5-year interest-free loan – again, something to remember when you’re standing in line at the bookstore. The biggest cuts came out of Special Events (83 percent), followed by the operations budget and the executive operations accounts. It may seem obvious that special events should be dramatically reduced (if not eliminated) in light of last year. But common-sense is rare in government, and should be commended when it surfaces.

It should also be noted that ASUA now receives a full 21 percent of its funding from student fees.

Rainy-Day Wars. Most of the debate, however, revolved around the executive operations accounts. These accounts are discretionary stop-gap funds that can be spent or transferred in the event of an “emergency” or funds shortfall – the most commonly cited examples were three separate $1,000 withdrawals from President Bruce’s account, which were used to pay for buses, pizza, and t-shirts at last year’s DETHFEST. (which belies further the myth that ASA is somehow “independent” of ASUA, even though the ASUA President appoints all representatives of the UA, which are cabinet members, etc.) In effect, these function as mini-rainy-day funds.

Even though the operations budgets were reduced from $9,000 to $7,000 for each of the three executives (the treasurer has a $3,000 operations budget, and the Chief of Staff gets $2,000, but it’s unclear how these compares to years past), Sen. Daniel Wallace openly questioned why these accounts existed in the first place, moving to separate them from the rest of the budget. The measure passed unanimously, and the budget sans executive operations passed unanimously as well.

This led us to the War of the Wallaces. In one corner stood Daniel Wallace, strongly opposed to the current accounts. At the very least, he argued, the itemized budgets of these accounts should be looked over, to get a better sense of what the money is being spent on and how much is actually being spent. He was skeptical of “giving one person total control of $7,000, especially with our budget as tight as it is,” and thought that the discretionary funds needed to be more transparent before granting approval.

In the other corner sat Stephen Wallace, grizzled old lion of the Senate floor, offering a full-throated defense of the technocracy. “We’re not taking into account the experience of the treasurer… I’m a physiology major – I don’t feel comfortable making a decision about this. With our credentials, I don’t believe that anyone can do it better than Treasurer Harris.” This sounds familiar. At the end of the meeting, after casting the lone dissenting vote against tabling the debate until next meeting, William Wallace burst through the glass, face covered in blue, screaming “FREEDOM!” and bearing an axe Stephen Wallace expressed his discontent. “I was disappointed … I love you all to death, but I do not agree with what the decision was.”

Joining him in general opposition to Daniel Wallace’s scrutiny were Sen. Yamaguchi (who thought that overly controlling the funds would be inefficient). Meanwhile, Sen. James Brooks cautiously supported looking over expenditures from previous years.

(A lengthy aside here on the use – or should I say, abuse – of the term “checks and balances,” which was inserted throughout the meeting as though the Senate were playing some wonky version of the meow game. The term ‘checks and balances’ refers to a system of government, rather a measurement of powers within a government. For example, when the President has discretion over his operations budget, that’s not “one checks & balances.” If anything, it would be “one check,” but even that misses the point. In such a system, various powers that be are “checked” and “balanced” against each other – it is a system of antagonism, rather than a list of steps. It’s an easy confusion to make, given the “How a Bill Becomes a Law” catechism that is taught, but the primary point of such a system is cast powers against one another, rather than to provide a bureaucratic how-to list. It’s political philosophy, not process.)

Ersatz fiscal conservatism is no new thing to ASUA (see cards, safety), but this could very well be the real deal.

As for the issue: it’s probably a bit risky to entirely void discretionary accounts, although there’s no indication that anyone wants to do this. The bigger issue – which Sen. Atjian started to hint at – was the weird separation of the funds, dividing them in five different zones. In part, this is because they have different jurisdictions; thus, Presidential funds were used to fund ASA’s vacay, because ASA is part of the President’s cabinet. But based on this provided chart, it seems to represent a more bizarre division amongst ASUA:

ASUA Organizational Chart

In most American style democracies, the President is the chief executive, and the vice president(s) is the second-in-command, directly under the President. But this diagram shows the President and the two vice-presidents all serve at the same level, serving “ASUA” as though it were some sort of juche.  This is more reminiscent of a Roman triumvirate, with each executive doled out its zone of influence. (Yet this kind of exposes the absurdity of the non-elected operations budgets – while they have certain needs, there’s no reason those can’t be allocated directly from the President.)

This could just be a bad diagram, but it could also show how exactly ASUA sees itself. So the Senate should be livid – livid! – when it is depicted as a division of “Club Resources,” under the jurisdiction of the Executive Vice President. Any self-respecting branch of government should assert its own control – its own “check” on executive power, if you will – which brings us back to the operations budgets.

Perhaps all of these funds are needed over the course of the year, but at any given time there is no need for more than $2,000, say (again, itemized budgets of years past – and as AVP Ziccarelli was right to point out, for several years past – would help in this regard). The rest of the funds would then be placed in the Senate’s own operations budget – or, at any rate, its general budget. When any of the executives ran low on funds, they would have to come to the Senate to request the transfer.

The purpose of all this is to restore the Senate with that essentially legislative power of the purse. It’s a power that has somewhat been removed from the body, mostly with the institution of the unelected appropriations board (A sort of bizarre synthesis of pre-17th amendment Senate and the Council of Zion, made weirder by the fact that the elected body partly “checks” the decisions of the unelected body, rather than vice versa). If the Senate wants to be a relevant entity, it could do worse than transfer spending authority from the executive branch to itself.

Random Notes:

-The Sustainability Committee presented today, describing an internship with course credit (see Connor for why this is not the best idea), the plan to reduce ZonaZoo’s carbon footprint, and the implementation of “community gardens” at the dorms.

-ZonaZoo will be hosting a “ZonaZoo Power Hour.” In light of recent posts here, I fail to see how such a program doesn’t encourage binge drinking to a greater degree than any colored “fan cans.” Is it unreasonable to suggest that a student previously unaware of the proper ‘power hour’ would be introduced to the idea at the event? And, the idea having been planted, is it unreasonable to suggest that said student would be intrigued by this idea and try an actual power hour?

Which is not to say that this activity should be banned or renamed – in fact, your author’s only disappointment is that it’s somewhat false advertising. Yet if ‘fan cans’ and other such promotions “encourage underage and binge drinking,” then administrators who want to avoid hypocrisy are obligated to stop this event.

-ASUA has a Twitter, opening up a world of hashtag possibilities. We also have a Twitter, which has been utilized to provide information (with a dash of snark) from the scene.

t’s probably a bit risky to entirely void discretionary accounts
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9 Responses

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  1. Emily Fritze said, on 27 August 2009 at 3:09 pm

    “It’s a power that has somewhat been removed from the body, mostly with the institution of the unelected appropriations board ”

    Long, long ago in ASUA, the Senate used to serve in the same capacity as the Appropriations Board. From what I have heard, there were a lot of problems with this system. It seemed to be a conflict of interest for the Senate to decide who received club money and represent the student body at the same time.

  2. Garrett P. O'Hara said, on 27 August 2009 at 5:22 pm

    It was some time ago for me (2007?), but didn’t the Senate at some point give itself power to override decisions of the Appropriations Board? Much of it had to do with the fracas surrounding EVP David Reece. Does that still exist?

  3. Shain Bergan said, on 27 August 2009 at 5:41 pm

    @Garrett:

    The Appropriation Board’s decision is not final. Ultimately the final decision lies with the Senate, although there have been questions regarding what the Senate’s role should be in the actual designation of dollar amounts of funds to clubs and the like.

    I remember a situation last school year (God, I don’t remember the club, but I think it’s the one Jason Mighdoll was a part of) where the Senate overrode a decision by the Appropriations Board to give the club a certain amount of money. If I remember correctly, the Senate either cut the amount in half, or sent it back to the Board with the suggestion they cut it in half.

  4. Stephen Bieda III said, on 27 August 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I don’t see why the Appropriation’s Board isn’t made up of a small group of currently serving Senators, with Senate oversight in the final decision. Perhaps my view is colored by the organization that GPSC has whereby the Treasurer is elected internally and serves at the pleasure of the Council and the President appoints Representatives to serve on the Appropriations Committee.

  5. […] For background information on this debate,  read here. […]

  6. […] site had proposed legislative oversight over these funds in last week’s report, so naturally much of the Senate recoiled at the idea. […]

  7. Deserae said, on 3 September 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I’m sure Jason Ernst being BFFs with Gabby Z since middle school didn’t hurt either…

  8. […] training themselves? And, further, if funds run low, isn’t that the whole reason that these executive operations accounts were kept in the first place? Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  9. […] EVP Fritze said would be discussed later. Meanwhile, Sen. Daniel Wallace – bringing up his old bugbear – wondered why these funds couldn’t be derived from the Executive Operations […]


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