Where did the good citizen candidates go?

Published 12:02am Sunday, July 31, 2011

Will the pendulum of public tolerance for political shenanigans and ineptness swing soon, please?

It’s gotten downright ridiculous each election season — and that’s not a statement about the perennial list of silly nicknames that make their way onto the ballot. I’m referring to an ever-increasing drop in the quality of candidates willing to throw their names in the hat. Public service has become a sideshow.

On the national level politicians fight and scream at one another during the day on so-called “news” shows and get caught sending suggestive or lewd self-portraits by night.

Our country deserves better.

At the state level, many of the “top” politicians seem incapable of avoiding negative advertising and low, half-truth attacks.

The recent series of TV ads depicting Mississippi state treasurer Tate Reeves, who is running for lieutenant government, as a tiny, yipping dog is the latest in a long line of examples.

How sporting is it for the second-most powerful elected man in the state — or at least the man who wants to hold that distinction — to pay good money to essentially call his opponent a “sissy” on the nightly TV news?

Our state certainly deserves better.

Locally, our county is no better off. In fact, it may be worse off. The state and national foolishness seems to happen somewhere else as we’re simply distant observers. With the local foolishness, we have front-row seats.

On the more ridiculous side, we’ve heard many reports of residents complaining about the mysterious appearance of unrequested political signs in their yards and other property. Vacant homes were targets, as were practically any available spots along public roadways.

Do we really want to elect these people who are foolish enough to think it’s OK to sneak around and erect signs without obtaining permission? If they’re already violating the rights of others before the election, just imagine how much more trust may go out the door once they are elected.

But let’s dig a little deeper and ask: For whom is my candidate REALLY working? Is it the voters; or is it the people who donated money to their campaign?

Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Many candidates will promise you the moon, if you’ll just vote for them. But ask yourself: Don’t we really just want them to put the best public interest ahead of their own?

Much ado has been made over the tax liens and other court judgments that several candidates for office have on file at the courthouse.

Our newspaper’s decision to print those facts was simply an effort to inform the voters as such things may indicate a person’s deeper nature and ability to organize and handle routine money matters — a key in almost every public office, but particularly important in a few offices.

The results of that study were disappointing, but not surprising.

Quite honestly, we’re at a point in which fewer and fewer “good citizens” are running for office.

Instead, we seem to be getting more and more people who view public office as just a job and a pathway to a long, lucrative retirement.

Our county and its hardworking taxpayers deserve better.

Hopefully, the pendulum is swinging toward a return to more good, honest, even-keeled citizens returning to the ranks of would-be county leaders. I have to believe that. If I didn’t, I’d simply stop caring and stop voting.

But the pendulum swing cannot happen soon enough.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

  • Anonymous

    In answer to your headline question, they’re certainly NOT around here.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article!!! Judging by the lack of comments on this site, this article did not resignate w/ many or very few care……….
    I am very concerned about my country, the way our citizens have become increasingly dumb— and are so gullable and
    take what they hear by major tv networks, or read in the liberal press as the gospel truth…. Scary times we live in, and
    I pray the pendulum does swing toward a return of more good, honest even keeled citizens running for leadership positions
    very soon…. So many citizens have given up on the politcal process, because of all the corruptness, and sick of being fed promises,
    promises, promises that the political figures have no intentions of carrying out…. Political figures need to be held more accountable…
    as long as we vote by popularity, looks, color of skin—– expect the same oh, same oh…… Knowledge, experience, reputation,
    values should play a significant role in who we vote for……. but for so many, especially in these parts, it is a racial thing—voting for
    someone who is their own color! Experience/expertise plays no role! Hard to believe it’s 2011, and people are still acting like this!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent reply!! However, I believe all hope is gone.
    We seem to live in 2 seperate worlds. Politicians in one, people in another.
    If we are still around, we’ll still be acting this way in 3011.

  • Anonymous

    Nuff said.  Only one question – were all candidates screened for judgements, etc. with no hits on the others, or were just the worst ones highlighted?

    Good article.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com Kevin Cooper

    Perhaps the solution relates to what we’re paying folks. As much as I hate to think we need to pay MORE to politicians, more intelligence business people simply don’t want to have to deal with all of the negatives for the level of salary they received. It’s simply smarter for them to stay in the private sector.

    The hiring of Joe Murray as county administrator should prove a good test of that theory.

    The county “paid up” for Murray and he’s probably among the more qualified folks we’ve had in the office in quite a while. It should be a good investment.

    I guess that begs the next question, how much would we have to pay to improve the quality of our government leaders? And, could those higher-compensated folks save enough in the budget to offset their added pay?

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com Kevin Cooper

    Thanks and I agree: It’s scary. Hopefully things will turn soon. 

  • Anonymous

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    Representative democracy is a mirror.

    You may not like what you see, but what you see is who we are.

    Why don’t more good, honest, decent people run?

    Because they know they can’t win.

     

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com Kevin Cooper

    I believe our newsroom screened all the candidates for circuit and chancery clerk — both positions directly handle lots of public money with few checks and balances in the system. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, it still amazes me that the lack of checks and balances were not beefed up after the Binky Vines debacle. I am appalled at the fact that they can maintain funds in accounts outside the county account system and pay their own salary out of those separate accounts.  In spite of the integrity of the 2 incumbernts, there appears to be a whole lot of room for embezzlement from those funds, not just from the Clerk, but all his subordinate staff???  There has got to be a better way, how is it done in other counties?

  • Anonymous

    Murray should be able to save his salary within the first 3 months, but all I’ve heard about him doing is “review the Rec. Center funding” and distribute budget information for next year.

    Another idea to approach the raise concept – offset higher salaries for leaders by reducing the number of leadership positions – combine city and county government = no additional cost to taxpayers (or a reduction in cost). Mayor/President top position with representative board of 1 per district below that. Directors over the various departments below the Mayor/President. Upgrade those outdated computer systems to improve efficiency in all departments (I understand that our Tax Collector Dept. is one of only a few in the state not on the internet to conduct business with the MDOR, others comment the Circuit Clerk office outdated).  Also cost savings by eliminating duplicate city/county election in different years.

  • Anonymous

    It seems like everyone that runs is attacked or assumed to be dishonest, and that is not always the case.  Normal people don’t wish to see their names dragged through the mud.  I served 2 terms a few years ago.  I said I believed in term limits (I still do) and that I wouldn’t run again after my 2 terms were up.  People have approached me since about running for different things.  I really don’t think I would run for anything again because I wouldn’t want my family to see my name smeared in the comment section by people who know almost nothing about me.  This may be why other normal, decent people don’t run for office.

  • Anonymous

    Very true, if they don’t get you in the comments, they get you in the main article!