Why not lead by example?

As the rest of the world shakes its collective head in wonder and amusement at the current state of California’s carnival of politics, here at home we either wear a self-conscious grin of embarrassment or boldly embrace the recall as a sign that the democratic process is alive and well.

Well, it’s not. If it were, we’d not only be going after the governor’s head for getting us into this $38 billion financial pickle, we’d also be taking the state Legislature to task and demanding its members make some concessions.

Are you old enough to remember when Gov. Jerry Brown opted in 1978 not to live in the then-new huge governor’s mansion, but instead rented a modest apartment in Sacramento? He also nixed the use of the governor’s limo, instead opting for a state-issued blue beater of a Plymouth. Those were the days.

Such emblematic, if relatively empty, sacrifice by our elected leaders could go a long way to help restore credibility and reflect some evidence that our representatives still recognize common humanity with their constituents.

While the average Californian struggles to pay the bills, stay employed and avoid injury and illness, legislators like our own Rick Keene flaunt their taxpayer-provided perks, which include $300 per month to lease a vehicle, a gasoline card, $125 per diem while in session and top-notch health insurance for their families. All this comes on top of a $99,000 annual salary.

Keene uses all of the vehicle allowance and adds another $150 out of his own pocket to pay for the gas-guzzling GMC Yukon that inefficiently and expensively transports our assemblyman 180 miles to work and back each day. Wasn’t Keene among those calling for sharp cuts in spending as a way to balance the budget?

We’ve asked Keene in the past if he would be willing to make an “I feel your pain” sort of gesture. We figured a guy like him, who’d been born and raised from hardscrabble roots in rural Hayfork before moving to Chico and then putting himself through law school by driving a UPS truck, would make the connection and remember his humble beginnings.

Instead he dismissed the idea as meaningless. He’d better be careful, though. As evidenced by the recall, the voters are starting to smell blood.