Strong tea is brewing on the local scene
By JACK HAMILTON
Bremerton Patriot Columnist
April 23, 2009 · Updated 2:18 PM
On Wednesday, April 15, taxpayers across the state gathered in large and small groups, tea parties, to openly express disfavor with government fiscal policies.
While the disfavor was assumed by most observers to be directed at the other Washington, in reality the American public demonstrated concern about fiscal mismanagement at all levels. Perhaps more important, people who gathered at the parties were asking the key question — where did our governments get the authority to spend our money on the things they have decided are important. There was an understanding that government actually exists as an instrument of the citizens and is intended to serve those citizens. It seems a larger number of people, contrary to the exceptional efforts of our public education systems, actually do understand what the Constitution says and who works for who.
On a more local scene, it appears our commissioners still do not understand the concept of representative government. It is very interesting that the same elected officials who recently voted themselves a pay raise, justified by the long hours they have to work, are now declaring a permanent four-day workweek (with three-day weekends forever) as a money-saving move. Now we get to pay salaried workers 100 percent of the time while we only have availability to our government services 80 percent of the time. We are supposed to rejoice because the “budget revisions” will not require a reduction in deputies on the street.
Hey commissioners, listen up. We did not elect you to find new and unique ways to man and fund programs and practices that are not an essential (read mandatory) function of government. Public safety is number one on your list of responsibilities, fund it first. We did not empower you or any other elected official to develop and operate a full employment program for county employees. What is the actual fiscal benefit of the policy? Every full-time employee carries a significant additional cost for benefits. No employee, no benefits cost. Does extending personnel hours beyond the eight-hour workday involve overtime pay? If so, the reality is that instead of a 10 percent pay cut (four hours) we actually get a 5 percent cost reduction. One elected official appears to think a 10 percent pay cut for people is really bad, but it is better than letting them go. Sounds more like an employment protection policy. Why not simply eliminate all positions that are not essential to the proper function of government? That means going to the real bottom line rather than some lower comfort level for commissioners and senior managers.
Our county auditor apparently has decided that voter education is not an appropriate function of his office or an effort that should be budgeted. His decision to not mail a voter pamphlet to the voters before an election is not only misguided, but a failure of understanding of responsibility to the voters.
A common concern by candidates for office is the lack of voter understanding of candidates and issues. Most candidates understand that many voters wait for the voter pamphlet to make up their minds on who to vote for especially for non-partisan races, levy issues and initiatives. The auditor’s policy would place almost total reliance on media coverage for education. Apparently he missed the report that our “representatives” in Olympia decided that telling the truth in political advertising was not required.
To reiterate the point of the gatherings on April 15 and similar gatherings in the future, please consider the following: the citizens who took to the streets, and who will do so in the future, are non-partisan.
They do not protest our Constitutional form of government, but do protest what our representatives have done to that government. They do not demand life without taxes, but they do demand they not be taxed to death.
They do not desire a government that is without compassion, but they do require a government that exercises common sense. Simply put, they demand the government that our founders created and that so many have died to protect. Is that so much to ask?
Jack Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com.Contact Bremerton Patriot Columnist Jack Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.