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September 30, 2010

Change We Need

Patricia A. Kelly

It’s hard to imagine that people who go to the polls don’t even know who is running for office, as in the case of the District 3-A delegate race, where Scott Rolle placed second, after dropping out.


My strong request of those who voted for him is: “Please stay home next time!” If you didn’t know he wasn’t running, the chances are you don’t know much about his tenure as Frederick County state’s attorney, only that he was around long enough to get his name known.


I have been privy to his assertion several years ago that, if he had known who was involved in a particular case, his office would have proceeded differently in prosecuting it. To me, that’s not the mark of a guy who’s out to serve the public, but rather of someone out to serve himself. His office did, in fact, prosecute that case quite poorly in my view, contributing to allowing a person with a long history of violence being set free.


I may have a negative attitude, but I’ve been keeping an eye on him, and I’m not sure he’s the guy for the job, even if he is running, which he has “humbly” decided to do.


Voting is serious, worth the effort to learn what’s going on, to think clearly and to vote in a principled fashion. It’s an opportunity to improve the way our municipalities, states and country are run. It’s not just about what our representatives can get for us, or for themselves. The way things are now, we‘re contributing to the graft, corruption, party politics and self aggrandizement that is rampant in Washington, not to mention what might be happening in state and local governments.


As far as I am concerned, our whole system needs revision, and, if we got together and agreed about what we wanted, we could make it different.


First of all, we should demand transparency in government. To me, that means simple, concise language, and bills being about what they’re about, without being mucked up with so much pork that a normal reader can’t figure out what’s been passed, not to mention who voted for what and why. We could publicly decry the gobbledygook that passes for campaign speeches, too.


Second, we could vote directly, rather than have a party-based system of deciding who wins. If we can vote directly for contestants on “Dancing With the Stars,” we should be able to vote directly for president, without an electoral college. We’d have to check to see who was really running, of course, not to mention their credentials and achievements, along with their promises.


To do a good job of direct voting, we’d have to learn a lot about the candidates so we really know who we’re voting for.


With our present system, enabled and supported by us, it’s all about what bacon our representatives can bring home, instead of how good a job they can do of administering our government. We vote for pork; it gets added to each bill. Our representatives trade their votes for pork, and bills become so complicated no one can tell exactly who voted for what. Then we complain about such things as wasteful government spending and corruption. Duh!  What do we expect, given the mandate we send, whether intentionally or not.


Thus, we go back to promises of pork, and vote for people based on what they say and promise, rather than on what they do. Wouldn’t you like to know what exactly your congressman voted for, and what people got from his bills? I know I’ve had a lot of trouble trying to figure it out.


We could demand civil discourse from our candidates. The outcome of elections is the carrot we dangle in front of their noses, and there are many of us. We just don’t understand our own power, nor do we use it. When we see negative, twisted campaign ads such as some of Michael Hough’s, we could just not vote for him.


When we hear that Bob Ehrlich, when congratulated and offered support by Brian Murphy after his primary win in the gubernatorial race, informed Brian that a lot of people support him, we could slap Mr. Ehrlich on his fingers and demand more polite, less arrogant behavior.


Voters could demand, not only making bills transparent, but that representatives make themselves transparent. They could be required to include in their resumes a list of their past votes along with the reasons for their choices. This information could be provided along with a list of contributions, a true biography, their commitments if elected and how they did on the commitments they made the last time around. This could be mandatory before appearances at campaign forums. This would save us time looking up things the candidates already know, not to mention take a step in the direction of keeping them honest. This would enable us to determine the truth of campaign ads, too.


We could ask for publication, in clear and concise form, of meeting minutes and other records that show how our officials are behaving. Then we’d have the ammunition to vote them out.


It’s a lot to consider, but the only change that occurs in the world, occurs when someone takes it on. Think about it.


Sighting of the week: State Senator Alex Mooney (Frederick/Washington) campaigning near the liquor store at Jefferson and South Streets on Monday afternoon. Go on with you, Alex!


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