A few weeks ago I wrote about a checklist containing the key principles that define an elected official as being one of the people, or as having been co-opted into the system and no longer representative of the people.
In that article I wrote about the importance of opening up access to government affairs using televised public meetings. I think that if we study history we will find that the common theme possessed by most totalitarian governments is secrecy. A closed government has the ability to deceive and trick their own people because there is no way for the people to discover the truth. As such, an important cornerstone of our Republic is openness and ease of access by the people to the affairs of government. Due to the prevalent availability of technology, this openness should be more prevalent than ever. There is a need for our elected officials to allow today's technology to open up government in ways that have not been possible in the past. An important test for those seeking my vote is whether or not they support initiatives to further open up access to the government.
Another item that I believe is important when determining the motives of elected officials is the consideration of how they act regarding their own compensation. I believe that our system of government is designed to run efficiently when members of the citizenry make sacrifices and give up a few years of their life to serve their neighbors by being an elected official. Over the years, however, we have seen the rise of a class of professional politicians. Because salaries for elected officials have become too generous, it encourages people to become politicians as an occupation instead of sacrifice. Those who choose to make it an occupation will often be beholden to special interest groups to keep them in office since they probably view their political careers as a necessity of life, rather than a temporary sacrifice.
I strong disagree with the ability of any officer holder to vote for a raise for him/herself. While I cannot think of one instance where a raise is necessary, if a raise is needed, then at the very least, the raise should not take effect until the next term of office. In addition, any proposal for a raise should be voted on by the people at the same time the official is up for re-election. I think this concept would make an elected official think twice before asking for an unnecessary raise.
I enjoy following government affairs in other states. One of the recent national stories in the news has been the effort of the Louisiana Legislature to greatly increase their own compensation. I was especially excited to see how the people of Louisiana spoke up in opposition to the plan and forced the governor to veto the idea under the threat of recall. This event follows a similar effort conducted by the Pennsylvania Legislature which had to reverse a pay increase. This was, however, not accomplished in time to pacify the outrage of the citizens who proceeded to vote a number of the legislators out of office.
The next time a politician asks for your vote, please be sure to ask him/her how they feel about their compensation. If they are willing to make a sacrifice in order to serve their fellow citizens, their hearts are probably in the right place.