Elected officials not serving public good

Voices Of The Peninsula

Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

There is a trend in our democratic society that should be very alarming to all of us. It seems that our elected officials, whether on a national or state scale, no longer work for the common good of the United States of America or their constituents.

More and more, our elected officials work many agendas before they get down to the common good of their constituents. These agendas include those of political action committees, lobbyists, the elected official's personal agenda, peer pressure from other elected officials in the legislative body voting ("chit") system called quid pro quo, campaign promises made to fat cats and other "special interests," and, oh, yes, finally (maybe) you, the voting constituent or the nation or the state. This last agenda rarely, if ever, comes first.

Who are these people who have all this power and seemingly no accountability to the people who voted them into office? If you, the voter, have any complaints about your legislators, you believed what he-she said during the election campaign and you elected him-her. It wouldn't be so bad if it just happened once with a given individual, who subsequently has proven himself-herself to be a liar, a cheat or incompetent, but you elect them again and again.

What's that old adage? "Do it to me once, shame on them; do it to me twice, shame on me!" These days, we might actually do better to conscript "Joe Worker" out of the workplace or "Jane Homemaker" out of the home for prescribed terms in office, to run our government with some semblance of honesty, integrity and with our best interests in mind, rather than the secret legislative meetings currently in style by our elected legislators because Joe and Jane would identify with and be more accountable to the people.

The so-called party line, whether Republican or Democratic, is probably not in the best interests of the nation or state or the populace all the time. However, that's the way the Alaska Legislature's business is currently being conducted; in other words, whatever the Republican Party line is!

So, when new taxes ("fees") are imposed, when your permanent fund dividend disappears, when other state services or perks you once had are rescinded, the governor and-or the legislators you elected, will have a very well thought out rationalization on why they had to do that nasty, unavoidable thing to you and you will believe that, too! That is why all political organizations have "spin doctors" who are well paid to throw very effective "curves," such as press releases worded very carefully to fool the voter on most any issue that might impact the politician's re-election chances.

And you say: "Gee, that sounds reasonable" and elect them again.

Some might ask, "Why do we choose to disbelieve history?" Not everyone is senile, but sometimes most of us act as if we were.

Now for the common good of the people what is it? Here are a few examples:

1. Availability of a good public education system, whether academic or vocational. That means adequate funding to provide good facilities, good teachers, appropriate curricula, necessary supplies and reasonably sized classes to facilitate the learning process.

2. Availability of good, well maintained transportation systems of roads, airlines, buses and railroads to population centers.

3. A good law enforcement and judicial system and emergency services for the safety and protection of everyone.

4. A good social services system to address public social issues, such as the disabled, abuse, neglect, addiction, etc.

5. Availability of good medical and health services.

6. Protection of the environment, well-managed natural resources and wildlife, for the people and for posterity.

7. Protection of earned pensions from corporate greed or mismanagement to assure those who worked many years for their retirement can enjoy retirement.

8. Elected officials whose highest priority in their elected positions is the common constituency they serve. For legislators, common constituency means the population and welfare of the state as a whole.

This list is not comprehensive but should show the agendas listed in paragraph two are not even close to the correct priority order. The common good list above are examples of the ideal "permanent fund" for all Alaskans, and every citizen of Alaska should demand items one through seven above be fully funded each year, and that all elected officials get their priorities straight or find a new job!

So, if you are satisfied with your new governor's demonstrated nepotism, campaign aloofness and arrogance, rhetoric, nickel-and-dime-tax-and-user-fee schemes which preferentially impact the average wage earner and the poor, misleading campaign promises, his beginning assault on your permanent fund dividend, the Republican legislators' secret policy meetings and issue voting records, their collective, "definitive responses" to your concerns and complaints, and their "solutions" to our state's budget problems, then you should re-elect them.

However, if you think Alaskans should have a voice in the operations of state government (of, by and for the people), then you should already be searching for candidates who will work to provide for the common good of the state and its people first.

A lot of people think we need a smaller government, but Murkowski and 12 senators, all of whom think they are a king, may be too small of government. What we need ain't them, but that's what we got! Paraphrasing Pogo, "We searched long and hard for the enemy and the enemy (right now) is us!"

Only the voters of Alaska can fix this perceived problem of royalty and lack of accountability to its populace. A good place to start might be to get rid of all career incumbents and insist on term limits for everyone who is newly elected. For the amount of common good the state career incumbents are doing for Alaska, they appear to be on the "dole" as much as any other welfare recipient, but they are a lot more expensive!

Richard Hahn is a retired nuclear engineer who worked for 30 years in the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Idaho and has lived in the Soldotna area since 1997./i

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