It really is time to step up
In his recent column “Time for Jeffco citizens to step up,” editor Doug Bell is correct to ignore the advice of those who tell him to relax, that he should just accept the back-room, back-scratching deals that appear to be the norm in Jefferson County. I hope he always ignores this advice. Change will come only when enough people step up, take a stand, and demand much higher levels of integrity and genuine transparency from the leaders we elect to public office.
The exploitation of ethical and legal ambiguity by some politicians has risen to an art form in our nation. One of the most skilled artists that I have encountered in my 30-plus-year career in government is a former Jefferson County commissioner. With the possible exception of a few well-known artists from the Chicago area, few local officials rival the sleight-of-hand talents of this former commissioner.
This gentleman is truly a Picasso when it comes to exploiting ethical ambiguity and hiding behind what (might be) legal to avoid doing the right thing. Unfortunately, he is not alone in his accomplishments in this artistic medium: According to national polls, most Americans believe they are routinely lied to by their elected officials, yet they continue to go along, apparently resigned to the fact that “this is just the way things are.” Is this OK in America?
All significant social change begins not with government, but with citizens — with we, the people. Here’s an example. It is with great pride that I relay stories to my two teenage sons about growing up in East Texas and remembering that historic day when my high school finally desegregated in 1970. The pride comes in seeing their disbelief when I tell them about the things we no longer endure and just go along with. When I see their looks of confusion upon telling them about having “white” and “colored” drinking fountains and restrooms at city parks, I realize the tremendous progress we have made in our nation.
But those changes in civil rights were not handed down by political leaders. Rather, they were handed up from people — people who stepped up and declared that the way things had been in the past was not going to be the way of the future. The politicians then responded to the will of the people, and laws allowing, even encouraging, discrimination because of race and color suddenly became illegal.
It took immeasurable courage for our nation’s early civil-rights leaders to step up and take a stand. It cost many dearly. It cost some their lives. You can be sure that the friends and families of many of those brave souls were urging their loved ones to “relax, that’s just the way things are.” Thank God those true patriots ignored them. Ours is a better nation because of it.
When are we going to step up and demand honest transparency and integrity from our elected leaders?
former Jeffco county administrator