The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 14, 2013

Another layer of trust eroded away

Daily Item

---- — With the wide-spread corruption that has been all too common for all too long in nearly every level of government, nothing surprises us anymore, which is a sad reality. There have been sex scandals, tax scandals, drug scandals, each of which adds another layer of distrust -- and disgust -- in our public officials.

The latest case surrounds the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which used a "pay to play" system that gave contracts to vendors who shelled out the most goodies.

New state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who already made her mark by thwarting Gov. Tom Corbett's lottery plan, now has brought down a group of eight "leaders" who used their political influence to make money and fill their campaign chests.

"Leaders" is in quotes because it is no longer appropriate to refer someone like Sen. Bob Mellow, already in prison since January for an unrelated conviction, as a leader. Like many of his fellow elected officials, Mellow has obviously forgotten the first word in the Constitution is "We" and not "I."

How else can you explain that Mellow continually landed tickets to see his beloved New York Yankees in exchange for access and turnpike contracts?

The practice has become so common, and so expected, that businesses who dealt with the commission considered the under the table payments "a necessary part of their marketing budgets." So it was just expected that if you wanted the work, it wasn't going to be about who could provide the best services, it was about who could fill the most pockets.

That is why things like the turnpike are in such disastrous shape financially. For far too long it has not been about improving the project or the service, it's always been "I" and not "we."

Time and time again our elected officials have violated the public trust we put in them. Each time another story like this pops up, it pushes the public's trust further and further away.

Cleaning up government has always been a monumental task and one that will never be fully accomplished. That doesn't mean it is a fight to stop fighting, however. Elections are supposed to the do the trick, but voters are often swayed when their elected officials bring community projects like parks or airports into their backyard.

Those are "we" projects and while they may be defined as pork, at least they benefit everyone, not just a small group of powerful leaders.