Candidate for: Auditor
Occupation: Semi-retired writer/editor; social, civic, and political activist
Education: AB, Harvard College; professional management development courses
Campaign Website: www.Merelice.org
Questions & Answers
Question: What do you consider to be the chief role of the Auditor—to detect fraud, to assess effectiveness, or something else?
Auditing the state budget involves more than number-crunching. It’s about the values we hold as a society, as well as the value of our tax dollar. Whenever we evaluate what happens to our taxes, there are people who are rightly concerned about what they call “tax and spend” policies. But to determine effectiveness, we must distinguish between spending and investing, between policies that benefit the corporate elite, that fail to help hard-working people struggling to support their families, and that despoil our environment, versus investing in the well-being of people and our planet.
Serving the people’s interests and environmental health = good public investment.
Fraud has many faces. While it must include uncovering those who abuse the system, it should also include finding those who are wrongly left out, ignored, or overlooked by the system. Census data and public hearings can provide insight into the gap between state services and people’s daily realities that the state fails to serve. Whenever the auditor authorizes a report on how a program or department is functioning, she must dig beneath the surface of raw data and ask why certain numbers are coming up. Otherwise superficial and even inaccurate conclusions are reached.
Question: What would be your top two priorities as Auditor?
As a former manager experienced in overseeing department budgets and hiring qualified personnel, I would fulfill the responsibilities of auditing the state’s financial procedures to assure accuracy, honesty, and efficiency in the disbursements of tax revenues. Public trust is critical to democracy.
Our resources are human and environmental as well as financial. Too often we lose our human talents and lay waste to our planet. I would audit those resources for the good of all of us. Examples: Instead of letting public land along highways and exit ramps languish, could it become a solar or wind farm or be used to grow vegetables? Instead of spending $42,000 a year to incarcerate a non-violent drug offender, that money would benefit both the individual and society if invested in treatment and training.
To feed into this audit, I would set up sessions around the state to ask people about their concerns, how the state shares responsibility for the huge immoral gap between low-income workers and the super wealthy, how the state makes our environment unhealthy, whether health-care institutions that get public money (like Partners) plan with them around benefits that are due their communities, and what solutions they propose.
Question: How can the state better oversee the awarding and execution of major contracts to avoid such problems as the failed Health Connector website and the Department of Revenue’s faulty system?
People learn from failure. Knowing that people had good intentions and did not set out to fail, I would enlist their participation, along with skilled consultants from universities and business schools, to review and make recommendations. More is gained from consultation than conflict.
Green-Rainbow Party candidates can exercise more independent and transparent judgment because we do not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists and corporations that lobby.
The auditing process can begin while the state’s discretionary budget is being developed. When favors are granted to businesses in exchange for promises of job creation, those favors can be challenged in the budget process if past promises have been broken. Corporations that got tax money or tax breaks seem to feel free to leave the state and the country to escape taxes, committing what some call “moral treason.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said poverty is produced. The auditor can help people recognize that poverty is not inevitable. I would ask them to identify their strengths and abilities, understanding that we can make their dream work through teamwork. Together, we can develop ways for the state to function efficiently and effectively in the interests of people and the planet over profits.