Somehow, right now, this time of transition from the old to the new elected leaders rekindles the American sense of optimism.
Yes, we're at an in-between time the changing of the guard. Let's enjoy this time as we look with hope of what new leadership will bring. It looks like the message got through; that people are getting back their government. Let's relish this moment, and maybe if we remember how great it is we will work harder and more diligently to keep our government ours.
During the campaign, candidates promised to bring back ethics and openness to government, and it seems like we just may have a say in our government again, including here in Utah. There were some newly elected leaders who seemed to get the message that voters wanted them to work toward having a government where people, not lobbyists with their money and gifts, regained ownership. Maybe and it's a big maybe the newly elected officials will be responsive to the voices of the people; but it will be up to us, the voters, to hold them to that promise.
Ethics is an internal compass. It's about keeping one's word. When our elected leaders stray off course, no longer able to navigate with their own internal compass, then we, the public, are left to calibrate it for them either through demanding ethics enforcement or through the election process.
And that message seems to have gotten through this past election. Maybe this time the voters elected, or re-elected, individuals who have been reminded and understand that they work for the voters; that they will work and act in the public's interest rather than being influenced by special-interest groups. It would be refreshing to have them refuse gifts of any kind.
It would be even more refreshing to have elected leaders openly declare conflicts of interest without having to be caught or hounded into doing so. Even better would be if they quickly recused themselves where conflicts exist just because it's the right thing to do.
It is encouraging to see much of the talk before the state pre-legislative -session talk has included ethics reform and enforcement. That government officials know the public is watching them closely is a gentle and persistent reminder that ethics isn't going away once the election ended.
Keeping the people's trust is vital, and that means keeping one's word. It has been amazing to see the way the administration and Legislature can work together in rapid fashion when they want to accomplish things that a majority of the voters did not want, i.e. soccer stadiums, foreign nuclear waste, vouchers, school district splits, to name a few. If they can do it so quickly for the things we don't want, they most certainly can work quickly together for the things we do want.
Our elected leaders will find that the voters are willing to support them, even if they make mistakes. The people realize making public policy is a tough job. All we expect is candor and integrity from them.
All too often we elect good people, and then neglect them; or worse, wait for them to fail. And while we are aglow with the hope for a better government, it is up to each of us to make it work. While we may be critical of our leaders, let us be loving critics. After all, this nation was built on optimism and it will take all of us working together to keep it going.A Utah native, John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations; been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served on more than 45 state, local and volunteer boards; and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and as a member of the commission on Hispanic education.
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