Trust fuels our republic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

As a Republic, our representative form of government is layered like an onion.

The outer layers are the federal government and its apparatus, with the inner layers our state and local bodies.

Each of these layers over-lap and interact with the others to form the whole that most of us have only a fuzzy understanding of.

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These mechanisms have made our republic work for more than 200 years and include the many facets and functions that drive our unique government.

Trust and faith however, powers its true success.

There is a long and cherished tradition that those in power that represent the masses, can be trusted to properly conduct the business of the community and country.

When our Republic was much smaller and government was much closer to those that it served, it was easy to see that things were as they should be.

In our modern times, governing has become much more distant and difficult.

As a result, there has become greater need to check some of the actions of government with the powers of the courts and activist groups to keep the faith.

A well-understood tradition of our modern governance recognizes that the power of the majority may not always be right and the views of others must and should be heard.

Through these checks and balances, the governed can build trust in the proper conduct of those governing.

This complicated relationship is perhaps most sensitive at the local levels of government and is where we suffer the day-to-day actions of this chamber.

These include our city council, their staff, and appointees who define our local government.

With a profound impact upon what most of us perceive as &uot;our government&uot; and as the layer of government closest to us, they are the group we turn too and count upon most often.

This group is also the one we as citizens; place our highest faith in doing the right things.

Most of the higher levels of government are just an abstract construction that we hear from time to time and send money to, but our foundation of trust is with our local government.

With the position of our local leaders so clearly defined in the Republic, it is appropriate to note the importance that our faith and trust has in granting them the ability to govern.

Many of these people are known personally to us and seen from day to day.

We also get to read in the local papers and news-accounts about &uot;what they are doing to and for us&uot;.

During the election process, we vote those in whom we believe best represent our views and we think we can trust to do our business.

This element of trust and faith is what we must focus on.

The trust of those represented in our Republic, is by such nature a very perishable commodity and must be nourished from time to time.

This is done by insuring the actions of those who govern are above reproach and that the representative body properly communicates its intentions and actions honestly to those being governed.

In this respect, our local governing body has failed and must take action to correct the situation.

This is clearly evident by the amount of criticism and dialog directed at and about the actions and policies of the City Council and their management team.

We have an articulate and well-spoken Director of Communications that works for the City Manager, however many citizens have yet to receive a clear explanation for many of the &uot;investments&uot; the City has made downtown and other policies.

Trust and faith is not built by just setting policy by fiat, it is built by completely explaining why such policies benefit the whole community.

This has been done so poorly by our City Council and Manager, that there is little reason to expect that the citizens really understand, much less have the faith.

Mutual understanding, with open and full dialog builds trust.

When people come to their local government for help or service and get citations for zoning and building code violations, trust is exploded.

When the powers to be fail to explain why the City must rent every piece of property downtown just to get it redeveloped rather that build for permanent use, trust is trampled.

When the City Council and Manager fail to construct a reasonable deal to build a new Hotel and Marina that has yet to be explained, trust is tread into the mud.

When we hear that it is necessary to pay double-digit raises to the powerful and well placed on city staff, yet we must hold the line on tax reductions and raises for the low and disconnected like our police and fire fighters, there is no trust.

These are but a few examples of the offensive style of our local government and it must change.

These clear issues can be corrected and trust restored with strong leadership that values the many over self-interest.

Trust withers under greed, spite, arrogance, and the simple minded thinking of; &uot;do as I say, not as I do&uot; and &uot;sit-down and shut-up, I’ll tell you what to say and think&uot;…

Our community is being starved for strong and fair leadership that places a higher value on communicating with the citizens the many reasons they should trust the intent and goals of those who govern.

We need strong and fair leadership to build trust, or paradise will be tarnished as we just sputter along.

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at