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June 25, 2009

Public Service v. Politics

Patricia A. Kelly

There’s been a lot of local political fighting around here lately. It seems that Alderman Donna Kuzemchak decided to take on Mayor Jeff Holtzinger again, this time suggesting malfeasance on the part of his administration during the infamous retirement buyout, an endless source of conversation for his opponents during the last couple of years.


The mayor vetoed her proposal of an outside review, and she decided not to pursue it. From what I heard from a witness, she also smiled and winked at Jennifer Dougherty, who is running for the Democrat nomination for mayor, during the meeting. At the time, I thought she was simply blowing smoke, attempting to increase election chances for herself and Ms. Dougherty. I still do.


I liked it that Mayor Holtzinger fought back, providing details of her contacts during her effort, and noting that she had run her proposal by Ms. Dougherty and Alderman Marcia Hall before the June 4 meeting.


Laying your case on the table clearly and truthfully, with evidence in place, is the best of politics. I’m still hoping that President Barack Obama can generate such transparency in government at the federal level.


I’ll never forget, during President George W. Bush’s first bailout attempt, hearing Senator Orrin Hatch (R., UT) say about the bill’s opponents: “We’ll have to sweeten the pot to get them to vote for it.”


It made me sick. Our financial system was going down the tubes, and, for our elected leaders to work on saving our economy required “sweetening the pot!” In other words, with our country at stake, “pork” remained the deciding factor.


I hate politics.


Public service is defined in the Random House College Dictionary as the business of supplying an essential commodity to the general public. Service is defined as something helpful.


I have observed a lot of political infighting over the years, the above being one of the more blatant cases; and I just don’t see any of it coming under the heading of public service.


Ms. Kuzemchak and former Mayor Dougherty’s efforts to disgrace the present mayor appear quite similar to me – activities designed solely to improve their own positions, and their own chances of election, the public good and the truth be damned.


None of this is my idea of public service. When people run for public office and become public “servants,” it should be to make their cities, states or their country a better place, not to give themselves power and riches.


We have many problems that need solving in our country, from illegal immigration to health care reform. And our leaders, who have access to the best minds on earth, can’t even manage to address them in a straightforward and honest way. Oh, no! We must be subjected to endless gobbledygook, and endless grandstanding.


Does anyone in office make the connection that open borders limit our national security, not to mention allowing a constant stream of illegal immigrants? Oh, wait. No one in office would want to miss out on the Hispanic (or other ethnic) vote! And we can’t do something as simple as requiring identification for employment applications, apartment rentals, car purchases, school enrollment, etc. That would be too easy.


On health care, between satisfying the drug companies, hospital administrations, physician groups and attorneys, all looking out for themselves, no one has the nerve to ask the hard questions. After all, campaign contributions might decrease, and votes might even be lost.


I even quarrel with what I hear from local people. “I like Roscoe Bartlett.” He’s done a lot for Frederick.” Don’t get me wrong. I do think our representatives should represent us, but, overall, it shouldn’t be about the pork that Congressman Bartlett can bring home. It should be about his contributing to the running of the United States well, keeping us honest, safe and fiscally responsible.


If we want transparency in government, we should be able to read and understand proposed legislation. Bills should be about what they’re about, and pork should be separate. That would really be interesting.


Government should not be about handouts, and what we, as individuals, can get. It should be about the public good.


So, to our legislators, if it’s only about you and your friends, rob a bank, or become a loan shark, or something. Don’t even pretend to be a public servant when that is what we so desperately need.



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