Dr. Ray Augenstein
Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish. These great words spoken by President Abraham Lincoln, at the conclusion of his Gettysburg address, spoke of a nation and a people whose concerns were for the benefit of that nation, not of a people whose concerns were for establishing a monarchy, or a dictatorship. Nor a nation to be ruled by the whims of any person or group of persons for their own personal aggrandizement, under whatever guise it takes.
Yet we have seen embezzlement, nepotism, lying, and gross malfeasance, especially in small government units, where the scrutiny is not as intense as in larger government offices.
When we were in Arkansas, our township had a supervisor that pushed out the clerk and treasurer, and then she hired her own people. The supervisor raised her salary, gave projects to friends, and benefited by her position.
We remember hearing about the little community of Bell California, where 6.7 million dollars was siphoned from the city by the elected officials. They were eventually caught, but it almost bankrupted the city.
If this country is of the people, by the people, and for the people, then elected officials have an obligation and a sworn duty to act in the interest of the people who elected them. I’m not saying that every elected official is acting with their own agenda in mind, but I believe there are enough doing so that they should be exposed, and their motives questioned.
Many are elected not because they are the best for the position they have run for, but because they have the finances and backing to buy advertisement and campaigns to sway the public to vote for them.
In county offices, townships and villages, all officials should be open to examination. Their motives examined, finances checked, as well as the salaries and benefits of every individual on the government payroll.
There needs to be complete transparency in county and township offices. The elected officials should not be afraid to reveal the reason behind the decisions they make or to respond to honest inquiries concerning the finances they are entrusted with.
There is a Federal Open Meetings Act, but sometimes it can be ignored, and the public unaware of what goes on behind closed doors, unless there is a mistake made by an official, but by then it’s too late.
I know that there are some areas that we must trust our officials to deal with, without someone setting on their shoulders, watching every move. Things like paying the bills, maintaining our sewer and water systems, our fire and police departments. We trust them to make wise and informed decisions on our behalf for our safety and comfort.
However, if an elected official gets upset when asked about certain expenditures, their motives and deeds are suspect.
I know a lot of people don’t understand the working of their local government, and many don’t care about it, as long as they are not directly involved.
But some people do care. They are the people who want to know why their property taxes are being raised, why the special assessments, why services are so shoddy, or canceled.
They want to know why they cannot communicate with their elected officials. We need to take interest in what is going on where we live, for the benefit of our community, our neighborhood, and our families.
We need transparency in our government, and we need to ask questions.
Dr. Raymond Augenstein PhD. Born in Michigan. Served in the US.Navy as a yeoman attached to the CID. Attended Bible college in California after military service. Became Pastor, Evangelist, Gospel recording artist. Continued studies to become a licensed counselor. Earned a Doctorate Degree from The University of Michigan, after retiring from 42 years in the ministry. Formerly Supervisor of Hayes Township.