Lessons I've Learned About Politics - December 23 2010 Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

Lessons I've Learned About Politics - December 23 2010
 


23 December 2010 at 1:37:45 PM
salon

I spent most of my life unconcerned with voting or politics. I've pretty much voted in all major elections, skipped the local ones (until the last 4 or 5 years) and never found much that power was doing that affected me personally. I decided about 5 or 6 years ago to look closely at politics and try to understand how decisions were made, how power in office works, and how I might participate as an idealistic democracy-mongerer.

Local Level

  • There's one standard for businesses owned by local people and another for businesses owned by the city. The city doesn't have to have inspections, fix broken utilties that could kill people, fix swimming pools that are out of compliance with the law.
  • If no one is watching, city governments will do as they please. Even if they are caught breaking the law, unless someone forces them to stop, they will not.
  • Government can turn a blind eye to hiring practices that include hiring friends and relatives to government-paid positions, or ignoring background checks.
  • Spending money on projects doesn't matter if a new council decides it isn't worth it. (CPAC)
  • A person can be innocent of charges against her, but a government entity can still make sure she isn't hired or put in any approved position.
  • Governments can appoint new council persons that didn't even run for office, aren't verified to even live in the city, without the courtesy of appointing the next in line by votes. 
  • If a district doesn't get passed by the voters, government will make an end run around voting decisions and do what they want anyway.
  • There are laws surrounding how tax money is to be spent, but some do not include the public in those decisions. The 4b board, an appointed board as subsidiary of the city, for example, does not have to have hearings before the public for all spending. That type of thing is a matter of getting the law changed since it is vague and not in the interests of the voting public.
  • Local government officials do not have to make sure they are in compliance with the law and no one will complain as long as they are members of the political party they belong to.  Certificate of Obligation   Meeting notices posted
  • Deals can be made without benefit of following legal public bidding processes.
  • Appearance of conflict of interest only matters if there's money involved. Otherwise, someone can be in office and steer projects or make voting decisions to help their pet projects without interference.

What I wanted (and still do) to see, idealistically, is people who are elected to office following the law, expending effort to make sure that they are conducting oversight into how the people's money is being spent, applying the same standards for themselves as they do to the voting public. This just doesn't happen. Maybe it does other places, but I assume it does elsewhere because there are many more people involved in their local governments, and not the same 25-50 that attend any given meeting. I've seen people attempt to shame government into doing the right thing, without success, through petitions.

I can only assume from these years of watching that most people agree with the good ole boy system, are too busy with their lives to care about how their tax money is being spent or are apathetic about whether such a system exists. The question has been, especially this year, whether I wanted to spend my time being a spectator of this type of system. I've gone back and forth, been frustrated, been sick over it, but there was always some part of me that expected, foolishly, I guess, that justice would be served at some point and I wanted to see it, to document it and tout how great democracy that follows law is. I no longer believe at all that will happen, at least not according to the way I would like to see government work. 

 

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Comments!  
1 - humanbeing   23 Dec 2010 @ 8:46:13 PM 

We can't let cynicism reign. We have to keep talking, fighting. I hate it, too, but...gotta keep on keeping on.


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2 - Tom   24 Dec 2010 @ 11:20:42 AM 

There are people on the council that do care about the letter of the law, following ordinances and regulations, and making the process transparent. Let's not lump them all together in one negative observation.



3 - salon   24 Dec 2010 @ 5:18:38 PM 

You are correct, sir! I do think there are some who do not fall into that arena. So often, though, those that do question, or want to discuss, etc, take a back seat to the person with the most bluster or to expediency. The general whine above has specific examples that apply to certain people and situations that certainly don't happen with all. The fact that they happen at all is not good. Let's hope for 2011 that those who are what you say speak up loudly, often, and don't vote too quickly on items just because there's a rush.

Happy Holidays to you!


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4 - humanbeing   24 Dec 2010 @ 10:43:45 PM 

I think the problem is human nature. Unfortunately, some cannot resist power and personal agenda in favor of serving a larger cause. Ethical standards in our country have collapsed and our systems have become too complicated to manage. Time to re-evaluate and down-size the way we live.

Yes, we have some fine people in government, people who are trying to do the right thing. But nothing keeps expanding forever. At some point, a system begins to degenerate and must be redesigned. It's just a law of nature.


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