Once upon a time, normal everyday citizens had access to their senators and congresspersons. You could call one of these elected officials and actually get to talk to them. Even better, you could stop by their office and see them face to face and have an opportunity to discuss issues directly with them.
Not so much now, instead you will find yourself talking to a junior level staff person (often an intern) who will “pass this on to the senator or congressperson.”
In today’s world, interactions with voters are handled by staffers who do the “grunt work” of following up with constituents. It doesn’t mean that your question, issue or other matter is not handled, it just means that you will never actually ever get to talk to the person that was voted in.
In Nevada, we are used to having direct access to our politicians. In recent history, it was not uncommon to board a flight between Reno and Las Vegas and often see one of our governors on the plane. No security people, no staffers and no one blocking your access to them. They were very cordial and seemed to really enjoy the interaction with the citizens that approached them. I have seen Paul Laxalt, Mike O ’Callahan, Robert List, Dick Bryan and former Gov. Sandoval by themselves on the plane. Jim Gibbons always had a big security-type person with him and was not approachable. I haven’t flown as much recently so I don’t know if Governor Sisolak is as available to the constituents as most of our past governors or not. Hopefully he is!
Take it up a step to the national level, and that access becomes greatly restricted. What is it about going to Washington D.C. that fills our elected politicians with so much self-importance that everyday citizens no longer can talk directly to them? You will hear that they are busy attending to our nations’ business, that they are in meetings, that they have a very busy schedule but that your (fill in the blank) will be relayed to them.
Our federal government has become bloated, fat and lazy. It has grown exponentially and controls more of our lives. It’s unresponsive to issues at a local level because it’s so far removed from actual contact with voters. It’s time to return the government back to the local jurisdictions and remove control from our state and federal government. Locally elected officials have contact every day with the voters and aren’t shielded by staffers.
Locally elected officials live in the community that elects them. They shop in the same stores, they eat in the same restaurants, their children go to the same schools, they drive the same roads, and they are far more accessible.
But being a local official and taking care of local matters is hindered because of mandates from the state and federal governments.
Our local officials are often forced to put into place state and federal programs that place restrictions on what they can really do at the local level. Funding is often tied to guidelines that our local officials must adhere to in order to get that funding. Local officials are faced with trying to do the right things that the local citizens want and balance it against what they are forced to do by the state and feds. It’s probably the hardest job in elected politics.
Counties have begun to push back on these mandated laws and programs. The most recent Nevada Legislature session had new laws passed that don’t make much sense to someone living in rural Nevada but that didn’t seem to matter to the urban elected politicians. Several rural Nevada counties have adopted resolutions against the some of the new state laws with declarations of “gun safe zones” and non-sanctuary status, but in the end, the state holds the aces in its poker hand because it controls the money.
It’s time to take back control of our government by letting local jurisdictions manage how they are governed. The closer you can keep the government to the local voters, the more politicians must be able to react and not be sheltered by a staff of interns.
Unfortunately, wanting to take back control and actually doing so comes down to the question of money. Don’t follow the state and federal mandates and local governments will find their budgets taking substantial hits to the bottom line. Are we willing to give up those funds to take back control of our local government?
Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org