03/29/14 — To serve: The truth about politicians -- at least some of them

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To serve: The truth about politicians -- at least some of them

It was not a good week for politicians in North Carolina.

The mayor of Charlotte -- who had only officially been on the job six months -- was charged this week in what amounted to a million dollar bribery scandal.

And it did not feel good to read about it.

What is sad is that it is not the first time for such news in the last year. From the unbelievable corruption that has destroyed Detroit to the myriad of other less-than-savory accusations that have surfaced about other politicians lately, it makes one think that perhaps there might be something wrong, really wrong.

One of the comments that seems to most irritate those who choose to serve is that all politicians are "crooks."

And that is unfair because they aren't all crooks. There are bad apples in every group, even the most humanitarian of organizations.

But there have been more and more reports of people who have taken oaths -- sometimes for decades -- who have forgotten along the way for whom they are supposed to be serving.

They get caught up in the attention, the perks and the job -- and they do not want to let anything, especially the power, go. And that means they are in it for themselves, not for their constituents.

It has become very profitable to be a politician -- as evidenced by the number of former politicos who have gone on to lucrative careers in the private sector after doing quite well as leaders (if they weren't already rich when they got there).

And that makes some of them weak, vulnerable to temptation and not the servant leaders our founding fathers hoped they would be.

So that leads to the next discussion.

What do we do about it? How do we keep the men and women who are there for the right reason, and how do we police when it is time for someone to go?

That is what voting is supposed to accomplish. But we face a challenge there, too, with more and more people who seem not to be able to name their senator let alone know what he or she stands for and his or her voting record.

What about term limits? There are disadvantages here, too. A long-term congressman can fight for his district effectively, understands the process, can take leadership stands based on experience and knowledge of the real world of Washington.

We need a mix of both knowledge and experience and the enthusiasm that comes from new perspectives and new ideas.

If we put those who want to run under a microscope, could we catch the potential problems before they happen? There is already a shrinking pool of people who want to try their hand at public office -- that's why we might very well be on our second round of Clintons and third round of Bushes.

What we really need are a number of officeholders who go into the job with the idea that they will be there for one or two terms only -- not for a lifetime.

We need candidates who are not afraid to talk about the hard stuff and who are willing to concede that no party -- that's right, we said NO PARTY -- can possibly have all the right answers all the time.

We need candidates who understand not only the job they are taking on, but the documents that are the founding principles of this country and the legacy of freedom they have sworn to protect, and who take that responsibility with the seriousness it deserves.

And there are some of them right here in Wayne County, right now, in local and state government. They make mistakes, but they care about their community and its future.

But they have to understand that it is our job as citizens to challenge them, to watch them and to push them to go to the next level, to take the stands that aren't easy, to ignore the rhetoric and the party line when the playbook calls for it.

We need leaders who build bridges, who shoot straight and who are man (or woman) enough to admit when they make mistakes.

In the meantime, we will continue to set a higher standard. It is how this city and county will thrive at all levels now and into the future.

All politicians are not crooks. But it is our responsibility as citizens to make sure those we entrust with deciding our county, state and nation's future are held to a higher standard.

It is what the founding fathers would have wanted -- and expected when they created this nation hundreds of years ago.

It is why being a politician will never be -- and shouldn't be -- an easy job.

And it is also why just anyone should not do it.

Published in Editorials on March 29, 2014 11:08 PM