The only legitimate reason for government to exist is to serve the needs of its citizenry. Those needs should be needs that citizens cannot do for themselves. In one of my favorite quotes, which is as true today as in any era, Abraham Lincoln said:
The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere.
In a democratic society, which services are to be provided by the government and how resources are raised to finance them are decisions that are made collectively by the government and its citizenry through the budgetary process, voter referendums or other public processes. An example of this is the truth and taxation hearings that were held recently across the state that were not well attended.
This arrangement is effective only when a cornerstone of democracy is present: the citizenry communicates its needs to the government and is informed of the results of government work. This is the essence of accountability in government.
In its simplest terms, accountability can be represented by this equation: the wishes of the people equal what the government did. Accountability issues surface when the equation is not balanced.
You may know from local experience that there are weaknesses in our democratic processes that allocate public resources. These weaknesses threaten the core of accountability and erode the public trust in government. They can be remedied by improving the usefulness of government reports and disclosures to the public. Improvements include disclosing information on performance and on internal control, presented in simple reports to the lay population. These concepts and practices are not new. Now is perhaps the time to apply them locally through e-government and internet communications. The technology is there, so lets make sure it happens.
What does this mean to you? Easy access to meeting dates, agendas and minutes. It also means dissemination of detailed financial information: past budgets; proposed budgets; final budgets approved, and proposed impacts to taxpayers on levies and referendums.
When you as the citizen do not show up, write or email your elected leaders voicing your concerns, there is a false illusion that residents are happy with how things are going and are pleased with paying more and receiving less. Why? Because taxpayers have been lulled to sleep and are under the belief that government taxes and they spend and there is nothing they can do about it. If you do not take the opportunity to voice your concerns then you have given up your desire to hold government accountable.
pineandlakes.com ©2013. All Rights Reserved.