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Building trust in government


January 19, 2012

By CORA EDWARDS*

Given the fractious nature of American politics, why would anyone run for office? It’s a question I’ve asked myself more than once over the last 12 months, and my answer is always the same: I love Sullivan County, I want to work with others who love it too, and I believe we can achieve great things when we decide to work together.

Our county faces serious problems, and we must face them with a clear-eyed and steady determination. But we also have great potential in ourselves and in our communities. We have people with energy, ideas and experience aplenty who are not being properly used. And we must find ways to involve a much broader swathe of Sullivan County residents in thinking through—and implementing—solutions. We are our own greatest natural resource.

Those I talk to are passionate about creating better jobs and expanding opportunities for our young people, strengthening Neighborhood Watch groups to ensure our communities are safe, keeping our property taxes from spiraling beyond our capacity to pay them, renovating our Main Streets to support vibrant and sustainable communities, keeping the rural character of our land intact and increasing our income from agriculture and tourism, improving our community college, providing our seniors with a viable adult care center and in-home services and instituting disclosure resolutions for legislators and other ethical reforms. For too long the perception has been that politics is an opportunity for private gain rather than an opportunity to serve the public good. We can work toward generating the conviction that government works for all of us and not just for some.

Encouraging more participation and building greater trust are the issues that underlie all of these concerns—trust between constituents and legislators, taxpayers and budget-makers, and elected officials and the employees who carry out the functions of effective government. Now more than ever, governmental agencies have to cooperate rather than compete for a decreasing pool of public funding while the demand for services continues to increase. If we are to navigate the rough economic waters that lie ahead and secure the relief from unfunded state mandates that Governor Cuomo has promised, we have to move our county government to a whole new level of co-operation.