Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Caught Unaware

More and more I am aware that bit by bit local rule is being eroded. Sneakily, not overtly. My biggest frustration in that arena is that I have no idea how to combat what I think I’m seeing. Not only do I not know how to combat it, I’m not even sure how to watch to see where all the holes are in the dike. How do you choose who to watch, when to fight and what to fight?

The biggest problem I see in our government (well, maybe not the biggest, but the biggest in this context) is that no one seems to be looking down the road. It’s all about now, immediate gratification or solution, which direction the wind is currently blowing, how can we maintain or get power and a whole myriad of similar controls.

How many of you were aware of H. R. 4772 and it’s potential (probable) ramifications? There’s a section on the Fayette Forum ( that highlights the pros and cons and has the actual bill so I’m not going to go into any depth here. Bottom line, they took power and decision-making away from locals and gave it to the Federal government. It grants developers greater advantage in their negotiations with local communities and will lead to greater federal court intrusion into land use decisions traditionally assigned to state and local governments.

Have you looked up or heard talk about unfunded mandates? An unfunded mandate, per Wikepedia, is a statute that requires government or private parties to carry out specific actions, but does not appropriate any funds for that purpose. Being married to a county commissioner I hear plenty about unfunded mandates. It’s common and costly to all of us. Typically it’s a good sounding or right-meaning cause but we have no say as to whether we think it’s a good idea and we end up paying for it. Someday I’ll do a whole blog on unfunded mandates – you might be shocked.

Security is something that is tops on our minds these past few years. We need to be aware, we need to be protecting ourselves and our country and I generally support the things I hear are being done (and oft times wish we were doing more). Most of would be willing to send in a check each month if we knew it would make us safer. But even in this area there are lines that I wonder about at times. It makes sense to have the federal government making these huge decisions for the country, especially when there is a big price tag to go along with an action. However, what happens when the government makes a decision that takes away some of our freedoms? What say do you and I have in the decisions that are being made?

We work through our local elected officials. How many of us know how our representatives are voting? How many of you can name one vote that your county commission or city council has made? Sure, if you read the headlines in the newspaper you’ll get the more controversial votes. You won’t get the full text, reasons or more than a sentence to cover a vote that might have been a year or more in the workings.

I consider myself fairly well informed. But I have a life just like you. I can’t watch every bill, read every press release, or go to every local government meeting. Our country seems to be changing, seems to be going in a direction I’m not sure I want it to go. I will keep trying and I’m going to voice my opinions when I think it’s important. How many others are voicing their opinion? How many voices out there counter mine? Who’s to say I’m right? No matter what, I think the worst thing we can do is to go about our daily lives and do nothing to shape the future of our country. Yes, raising our children is extremely important. But the future of the country they will live in is also extremely important.

I encourage you to do whatever little bit you can find time to do. Set aside an hour a week to look at a synopsis of how your representatives voted. Sign up for a few email updates from some government watch dog sites.(here’s one I like: Stop getting your news simply from newspapers and the television. Go to your local party meetings once a month and listen to the elected officials who come to the meetings. There are a TON of things you can do to become more informed – the rest should follow naturally. Don't be caught unaware.

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