Tuesday, February 12, 2008

By Margaret Downing: Accountability of elected officials

Dear Residents of Walworth County:

I recently read an article by Terry Johnson, County Administrator of Anoka County, Minnesota. It was titled ACCOUNTABILITY OF ELECTED OFFICIALS and it really impressed me. He pinpointed everything that I would have liked to say but did it so much more eloquently than I ever could have. In this year of elections he makes some very important points that we, as voters, must take into consideration before casting our ballot.

He started off by writing that when an elected official is sworn into office, he or she PLEDGES to uphold their oath of office. Then he continued "While some candidates feel comfortable making pledges to special interest groups while campaigning, those pledges may not be in the best interests of the constituents the official represent and may be in direct conflict with an elected officer's oath.

Special interest groups are quick to urge the public to 'hold elected officials accountable,' but they need to keep in mind that the official is accountable and responsible to ALL the constituents he or she represents, not just those who would eliminate, reduce, or freeze taxes or levels of taxation."

Mr. Johnson continues "The dilemma of keeping taxes manageable while meeting the statutory and ethical obligations to our citizens is not an issue that is easily understood, explained or solved. There will always be those who debate and criticize the role of government in our lives, but the fact is, many people need and depend on government for many of the services they need to sustain themselves.

The elected official cannot forget about the 84-year -old woman who lives alone and is doing her best to maintain her independence, all the while seeing the costs of her transportation and medication increase, while her social security and share of a pension do not.

How does the elected official tell her that the bus service which carries her to the pharmacy is being slowly whittled away because there isn't enough money in the budget to continue the same level of service as in past years? Or, what about the thousands of people who rely on publicly maintained roads every day? If we continue to allow roads to fall into disrepair because we aren't willing to raise the money necessary to maintain and improve them, we're not only creating a public safely hazard, but a barrier to economic development as well. "

"Roads link residents and businesses to help our communities prosper, and could be considered one of the most important services provided by government. Then there is law enforcement, licensing, deed recording, correctional facilities, and on and on. All of the services cost money; some of that cost can be offset with fees, but most need to be funded with tax dollars." Walworth County has also chosen to support the County Nursing Home and Lakeland School.

"Yes, we do need elected officials who are accountable, but they need to be accountable to all of their constituents, not just those who feel taxes are too high." They need to be accountable to the oath they swore to uphold, not to a special interest group.

Thank you for taking time to read this article and I hope you will give these thoughts your consideration when casting your ballot.

Margaret C. Downing
Walworth County Supervisor
District 14

The thoughts expressed in this letter are solely my own and do not reflect those of the Walworth County Board


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