The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 28, 2013

When governing doesn't work


---- — A local newspaper columnist recently wrote that the system of governing in Washington is broken. "Throw the bums out and set term limits" were part of his very convincing logic. I want to take this argument a little further.

Let's say, if you will, that I am the mayor, an elected public official of a small town, a town fraught with all the issues and problems of a large city -- debt, unemployment, decaying infrastructure, crime, increased pension costs, brain drain and so on; a microcosm of the country.

As a public official, an enlightened, progressive leader chosen by the voters to do what is best for the town and be financially responsible at the same time, I have a number of options. I can evaluate the issues and problems of the town and, along with the best minds in the region, determine a course of action that engages long term and lasting remedies for the issues and problems. I can remain in office as a complacent, laissez-faire elected official and postpone the issues and problems in the hope that they will resolve themselves or recede into the background.

I can ride out my term and pass the problems on to the next mayor and tout my tenure of peaceful, non-controversial reign. I can seek and accept the contributions of businesses, corporations and wealthy contributors who, although they have a stated interest in the betterment of the town, when the rubber meets the road will place their profits ahead of the best interests of the community at large. In this last way, I can leave office in a much better financial situation, probably without the voters knowledge.

Which one do you suppose our elected public officials in Washington have chosen?

Now, you may argue we have laws prohibiting lobbyists from bribing public officials with expectations that those public officials will show favoritism to the lobbyists business needs at the expense of the best interests of the voters, but the fact is that the fine line between bribing a public official and giving a large amount of money to his or her campaign for the same purpose, which is legal, is one intelligent people know does not exist. It is crossed more times than a chicken crosses the road in comedy clubs.

So, what am I saying? It is time that we the voters convene as a bloc and determine to set term limits for all our elected public officials, while at the same time making any legal contributions to these elected officials anonymous. Yes, we will need to contend with the Supreme Court, the emperors appointed to lifetime thrones.

Maybe, they should have term limits. The ideal system of government should afford all viable political candidates a level playing field by having them draw equally from a pool of funds created by the voters and then be adjudged solely by their qualifications and skills. This is election by merit not purchase. Is it possible in this country? Or are we talking about somewhere over the rainbow?

Vincent De Cerchio, Lewisburg