Oh joy of joys.
Another election year is upon us. It’s time we get soundbite answers, negative campaigning, do-nothing TV commercials, slanted reporting and mudslinging. Yep, things will get pretty hot and heavy as ballots this year will be cast not only for national issues, but for people, ideas and increased taxes locally. It’s a year, we, as sentient beings need to begin exercising our critical thinking powers.
In short, we need to start asking questions.
This past April, Dave Lieber, a colunmnist-type from the daily newspaper Star-Telegram in Texas, penned a column headlined, ‘It’s our right to ask questions — use it.? He had been scolded by a reader who, in part wrote:
‘I feel sorry for Lieber and others who feel the need to cause trouble and stir dissension . . .Where’s the good in that?
?. . . I’ve seen a lot of good people have their careers and reputations ruined because a few people have nothing better to do than spend countless hours researching all aspects of a person’s or a district’s financial, business or personal records.?
In his column, Lieber responded, ‘I understand better than most you cannot force people to think, become curious or want to improve society. But I believe we all should feel a measure of sorrow for those who would turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to abuses committed by people in positions of authority.
‘Some may wish to wallow in a dark cave of ignorance; but thankfully, these see-no-evil people represent a small minority.
‘Still, when those in power are caught abusing their authority (think Oakland Intermediate School District), I sometimes hear their defenders make remarks like, ‘We don’t need to know everything,? or ‘You have asked for too much information.?
‘Our democratic system is built on the public trust. This does not mean the public trusts its officials. This means officials work hard to earn and keep the public’s trust.
‘The only way to do that is to constantly monitor whether that trust has been rightly placed and ought to be maintained.?
He went on to say a lot of city council and school board types say they’re all for ‘probing and direct questions,? ‘which stimulate dialogue and ensure the best decisions are being made.? Few govern that way.
Some locally elected-types leave their questions at the door before a meeting. It’s almost as if they believe there should be no dissent among their board — that all should agree lest a negative light shine on them. School boards are great for ‘consent agendas.? Consent agenda items are discussed in private but voted on in public. Wink, wink, nod, nod.
Locally, I don’t think there are any elected crooks. But, as Dave wrote, officials must work hard to earn our trust. It’s the public’s job to monitor their elected and appointed officials. It’s the newspaper’s job to help the public’s. Columnists and reporter-types should be curious. They should ask tough questions and write about disturbing trends or actions.
Residents in Orion Township need to ask why a 50-year community staple such as the Gingellville Community Center was run through the mill by the township assessor. Why did the assessor take away the center’s nonprofit status the same year the township is trying to get voters okay to paying for a township-run center? Why?
Residents in the Oxford Area School District need to ask, ‘who’s watching out for us?? How can a building project in a single district be $1.4 million over budget when there’s a nearly $2 million contingency fund built into the system to catch budget overruns? I’m no math-magician but, that looks like over $3 million over.
Clarkston folks should question their school administrators for proposing teacher pinkslips while at the same time having plural public relations types on payroll. What’s better for kids: teachers or somebody to spin district policy?
There are probably very good answers for all these questions. But, that does not invalidate the questions, the need to ask them, nor the question asker. Asking questions doesn’t make you a big bad meanie.
In Texas, Lieber started the ‘Ask a Bunch of Questions? campaign. He personally paid to have that question printed on 1,000 yellow buttons (he sent me one, too). He’s sending them out to his readers and those running for public office.
Dave, who works for a big-time daily can afford the $250 for all the pins. As a local guy, my pockets aren’t so deep. Okay, I’m cheap and Dave’s great. Regardless, I don’t think I’ll spring for any pins, but I will say this: Let the campaign begin here! Ask, ask, ask and ask some more.
Want to ask Don what in the Sam Hill he’s thinking’E-mail him — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh joy of joys.