Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Don't Do Today, that which, You can put off 'til Tomorrow

An unfortunate credo for our elected and appointed representatives in government

As we once again face another Federal government shutdown solely based upon differing ideologies, we must seek somewhere to turn to seek the essential support services of "civilization." For years, I have believed that we should collectively focus upon improving the responsiveness of and our access to local government beginning with our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, etc.

But first, even though we might recognize the need to improve the processes of dealing with our social issues, we must improve our ability to communicate with and listen to each other.

Our own community of Bent Mountain is, without reservation, Paradise. It is only through our unique individual perspectives that we can change that fact, and even those deviating viewpoints don't necessarily change it for others.

Several years ago, Ed Elswick recognized the paradise of Bent Mountain. Early on, he sought to acquaint himself with all of the elements of his paradise including "rare yellow lady slippers" through friendly neighbors. He expanded his quest to include all of his now native Windsor Hills District of Roanoke County and our Roanoke Valley region at large. He found an opportunity to protect and enhance his newly found "garden of paradise" by serving as a Roanoke County Supervisor representing the best interests of his constituency.

During the past four years as a Supervisor, very few have recognized his level headed attempts at refining and enhancing citizens' participation in the governing process. I has been a rough experience for Ed, a retired executive from General Electric who sought, obtained and enhanced corporate efficiency. He has expressed understandable frustration in attempting to apply his skills in the public sector on behalf of his constituency.

Ed won office as a conservative Republican. Very shortly, he announced his decision to serve his constituency independent of any party influence. Traditional political party demands are, all too often, not in the best interests of a representative's constituency. As a result of his action the Republicans abandoned him, the Democrats, including many of our local journalists, jumped to castigate him as a Tea Party sympathizer. Yet, for nearly four years, Ed Elswick has continued to plead with his colleagues on the Board and Roanoke County staff to work more transparently with ALL of the citizens of Roanoke County. Clearly they have felt that to do so would not be in "their" best interest.

As with his predecessor, Joe McNamara, they are most often attracted to protecting the perks of their positions such as supplemental income, health benefits and sense of power associated with their positions. On one occasion, when Ed suggested to his fellow Board members that a poll of citizens might be a way to better understand citizens' opinions regarding County issues, another member stated, on record, that if they did such a thing; they might not like what they would hear.

More recently, under an admittedly questionably named "Property Rights Resolution," Ed sought to provide citizens with more transparency and opportunity to participate in local governmental zoning issues. His efforts were based upon numerous citizen complaints related to constraints on citizen input and the lack of response during public hearings from elected and appointed officials. His colleagues on the Board chose once again, to find fault with his efforts and accompanying requests from citizens, rather than proceeding through negotiation to re-craft and refine Mr. Elswick's self-initiated efforts.

Most of the current Supervisors obviously prefer to be guided by our local bureaucrats rather than to engage in the hard work of governing. Working retreats of the Board of Supervisors were a regular activity in past years. This provided the Supervisors with an opportunity to informally discuss ideas to improve our local government. Today, they have limited themselves to stifling sound-bite style discussions encouraged by our bureaucratic staff.

Ed Elswick is our last opportunity to re-elect a "Statesman-Style" representative of the people on our local level. He will always be available and open to your ideas.