10/27/06 — Eastern focus: Would-be legislators better keep region as priority

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Eastern focus: Would-be legislators better keep region as priority

There is a phenomenon that happens to some legislators at the state and federal level when they get into office — they forget where they came from.

For some, this manifests in all sorts of decisions that puzzle their constituents. “How will this benefit me?” those voters might ask. Or, “Is my representative really more interested in being powerful in the statehouse or Capitol than in his or her back yard?” a constituent might logically query.

And then there are those legislators who greet their constituents with silence. No new proposals. No leadership positions that advocate for the future of their region. Nothing but a pitch for votes at election time.

It is surprising how some state and federal officials don’t seem to know how to get to eastern North Carolina until a couple of weeks or months before the election. And then, all of a sudden, they are concerned about the “future of the region.”

And as we choose whom we will send to the North Carolina House and Senate and whom some of us will pick to head to Washington, we need to ask ourselves that age-old question — “What have you done for me lately?”

It isn’t easy to attract money, legislation and other help for a region that does not include the state capital. It doesn’t matter where you live, the farther away you get from large, metropolitan areas, the less often you get word of new money for roads, economic development and other projects.

And it is even worse when you get to Washington. There, hundreds of lawmakers from around the country all think their districts have pressing needs that deserve immediate attention. Getting the nod for federal investment in your community requires a loud voice and a whole lot of finesse — and some high-ranking connections don’t hurt either.

And that is why we “hire” legislators at all levels. They are our advocates so that we can go about the business of improving and growing Wayne County and the rest of eastern North Carolina.

So, before we hire or renew the contracts for some of our representatives this November, we need to think not only about their qualifications but about their job performance.

Their effectiveness really is critical to our region’s future. So, if they aren’t making the grade, it is time to think about a change in the playbook.

Charm and a good picture should not be enough to win this area’s vote. You should have to earn it.

Published in Editorials on October 27, 2006 10:53 AM