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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Prince George's County Charter Questions

The Horribly Bad For County Government, Prince George’s County charter amendments must be defeated by voting NO. Together, they would begin to change our form of government from a strong executive to at best a legislated partnership and perhaps even head us down towards a county manager system in which the voters and politics would be removed from the governing equation. I have even heard some say that the model would be the State of Maryland’s Public Works Committee. Does someone out there really think that the Public Works Committee is a good idea for Prince George’s County?

A local government’s limited ability to make effective policy reinforces the parochialisms of its leaders. (Paraphrased from Dr. Richard C. Schragger’s Can Strong Mayors Empower Weak Cities?) I am going to paraphrase and quote extensively from his work which you may read at the link above. There is something vaguely anti-democratic about trying to limit the power of a strong executive elected by the voters to lead. Fear of this power, which in local politics is wielded directly and immediately causes some well meaning people to attempt to restrict and constrain the people’s elect official. There is a strong revulsion to the exercise of raw power which is easily visible in local politics. There the rewarding of contracts and the direction of monies can be seen to smell of corruption, but this same mix of dispensation is exactly the attraction to political power. The ability to get something, done right now, for the right people, at the right place.

The past decades have seen a movement to restrict the power of executives and to divide the politics from the administration of the county’s business. In some sense, we have done this with the burden of Park and Planning which supposedly insulates the public from electoral abuse in making land development choices. How many of you believe that? The attempt to constrain the executive is a reflection of an innate distrust of democracy. The most severe form of tyranny, someone once said, is the tyranny of the majority for there is no escape but treason. And so there is an immediate short sighted attempt to reign in a chief executive, and in doing so, limit his or her very ability to do whose things for which the voters elected him or her in the first place.

Again quoting from Dr. Scgragger, “…the gap between formal authority and political influence is the arena in which much relevant policy is made.” Given this reality, there is an inclination to fragment executive power and to place this power in the hands of elite run boards and commissions, of which, I submit, there are enough in place to constrain the executive, as I serve on several. Today, political elites attempt to move power from the strong central authority and towards the wards or councilmanic districts. The end result is to disperse political power. This diffuse system lacks accountability and worse dynamic potential.

So in the end, we are diluting and weakening our chief executive’s abilities to respond quickly and decisively to our needs as citizens of Prince George’s County. We already have limited the power of the chief executive with term limits, with boards and commissions and with a robust strong council system. We need not make things more complicated in the hope of getting something ill-defined. Democracy is the worse form of government except for all the other forms of government. Fear of democracy is not a solution. Elect and hold accountable; use the laws already in place and from time to time pass resolutions and county code additions to fix problems unforeseen today. Let us boldly and proudly go forth into this century with our council legislating and our county executive managing. Vote NO for BCFGH.

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