As citizens living in a democracy, the relationship we have with government must reflect qualities and expectations we typically apply to our most personal relationships: Trust, respect, loyalty, fairness and honesty – to name a few.
In our relationship with public officials that are elected, appointed or hired to serve us, things seem to be going sideways with increasing momentum. Reports of unethical behavior, poorly executed programs and grossly mismanaged money are increasing common on the nightly evening news.
Most disturbing, however, is the casual way more and more American citizen’s respond to these reports. Disheartened acceptance instead of absolute outrage seems to be the norm. Any momentary disgust quickly dissolves into an afterthought under the increasing demands of stressful daily life.
“It’s just the way it is.” “Government has become such a complicated mess, where do we even start.” These are comments I frequently hear. Not apathy. Just frustration at the feeble excuses offered up when things go terribly wrong.
Then there is the lack of personal accountability that radiates from public relations teams hired by our government officials to satiate us in a crisis … in a way convincing us to accept even lower standards for their performance.
In a system of democracy where the desire of its citizens should be clearly reflected in policy setting we are seeing with greater frequency actions that discount or ignore our voices.
Instead we are told the officials entrusted with our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (not to mention all our tax money) will do what they feel is in our collective best interest, even if it directly opposes public testimony, polls and actual ballot initiative outcomes.
Are we simply resigned to accepting infidelity in this relationship?
If it were our significant other, they would likely find themselves kicked to the curb or at least the basement couch. I can’t imagine that this type of condescending attitude prevailed amongst those who crafted the original framework for our nation … The Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Certainly they did not intend that the average man be shut out of a process dominated by special interests.
So, now we have this local mess with the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEG), and the surfacing of internal correspondence, which apparently demonstrates a blatant disregard for the sanctity of the public process in the ongoing issue of wind farm siting in Kittitas County.
The process appears to have been nothing better than a staged play that has had a good run over the past three years. A script where the final scene was determined well before opening night… well before all the hundreds of hours of time spent by numerous local citizens researching and expressing their opinions on the issue of wind farms.
My only position on wind farms is that it is inappropriate to site them in scenic canyons and byways where the future of our local recreational economy will need a foothold.
My position on the actions of the EFSEC, and specifically Chairman Jim Luce and all other direct department officials participating in the internal correspondence, is they should be looking for new work. Their personal violation of the public’s trust cannot be restored.
At all levels of government, the consequences of anything less than sterling conduct must be severe and immediate.
Otherwise, the Constitutional goal of limiting the powers of government and protecting the rights of its citizens risks becoming no more than faded script on parchment.
Beth Marker – Cle Elum, WA
Northern Kittitas County Tribune, Jan. 3, 2008
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