Where is the respect in government?Published 12:04am Sunday, October 23, 2011
What’s happened to our government? Collectively, nearly all levels of government seem to have lost the respect of the citizens they represent.
That loss of respect seems to be merited in many cases. Examples of behavior meriting little respect are everywhere.
Some of the horrible displays of partisanship and self-interested actions coming from Washington, D.C., are perhaps among the best examples of the worst behavior.
TV “news” shows are often consumed by hate-filled rhetoric spewed at one another in high volume. Logic indicates that such shows are on TV because that’s what the networks and cable providers think we want to see.
Similar behavior comes down to the state level, too.
In what has become an annual rite of passage, state lawmakers will act like 10-year-old boys fighting almost as soon as budget talks begin in each legislative session.
Federal and state examples, though, are still too distant, literally and figuratively, to feel impactful on our lives. Even though citizens have some contact with their state and federal regulators, it always seems as if it’s someone else’s representatives who are causing the biggest problems.
But on a local level, the overt disrespectful nature of politics can slap you directly in the face.
We’ve seen it for years, in some ways, but it certainly seems to be getting worse.
Natchez city aldermen have publicly mistreated long-time city department heads — most memorable, the former building inspector, the city engineer and various police chiefs.
Talking down to them in public, chiding them and even going so far as to suggest they be fired on what seems like a whim.
But it’s not just a few aldermen; the problem is more widespread, too.
County supervisors regularly jab at one another on the publicly funded TV drama created by videotaping some of their meetings.
We witnessed a few months back just what happens when the cameras are off when one supervisor lost his cool and began yelling and cursing at a public meeting.
How incredibly embarrassing that is for our community.
Recently, after the Natchez mayor and police chief apparently talked privately about the chief’s plans to retire — either of his own volition or encouraged by the mayor — it was blatantly obvious that no one bothered to inform the full board of aldermen.
They found out when reporters called them for comment or when they read about the matter in the newspaper.
A few weeks ago the City of Natchez tried to demand Adams County pay an additional fee for county fire services, but did so on the first business day of the county’s new budget year. Sure, the city had brought up the issue before, but they left it floating out there, without resolution for months, then came with a demand.
Last week, Natchez residents learned that at least one sitting alderman was apparently working on a private redistricting plan that will go against the plan being funded by taxpayers.
Each of these little annoying signs of disrespect show board members don’t like one another other. That’s fine.
No one expects everyone in government to sit around and sing “Kumbaya” all day long, but most people do, deep down, hope that our elected officials will act like leaders and show some mutual respect for one another.
If they cannot respect one another, how on earth can voters respect them?
We’ll have state and county elections in a few weeks and city elections in the spring.
Hopefully, voters will remember all of these shenanigans and maybe, just maybe, a little respect can return to public office.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.