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The Tentacle


March 13, 2007

This Crow Tastes Terrible

Farrell Keough

Well, I did it. And it wasn't pleasant. Now, I have a plethora of excuses: I had surgery on both knees and was on medication, we are having remodeling done on our house, and it has been a mess to work and live in, my parents never showed me any affection. Okay, that last one isn't true.

Actually, I have no worthwhile excuse what-so-ever. This was completely my fault and I was fully aware of my idiotic actions! Long and short, I let my "conservative" viewpoints run riot and decided that if government was involved, then it was going to be a poor solution.

I was wrong! Okay!? I said it, and it is true. Who said bearing your soul was cathartic? They were wrong. apologizing sucks. But it does give one the chance to thoroughly assess their preconceptions against the actual facts and determine where to change their mind, (e.g., repentance). But I am getting ahead of myself.

I had been discussing the Ethics Bill for the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners on a local blog. I made an off-hand, smarmy comment that if everyone is unhappy, is this good legislation?

Well, in truth, I knew my intent in that comment and it amounted to saying the bill was poor and did not deal with the real issues. Upon a thorough reading, I found that it does, in fact, deal with the issues and handles them well.

Given, the bill is very narrowly focused; it only addresses development issues. As some folks noted on that blog, things like purchases of new vehicles are not included in this legislation. But we have nothing now, so this is a tremendous start!

Long and short, Del. Rick Weldon had to bring together some strong opposing forces to generate language that benefits the public and holds our elected representatives accountable. It also defines who actually has a stake in these issues and how they may proceed.

For instance, only those people who actually live within a limited proximity to a planned development have "standing" to bring the issue to court. Finally, section 15-855 (B) requires any commissioner having ex parte communication with any developer or his/her representatives, (i.e., lawyers, engineers, etc.) must disclose that communication. These are but two highlights and I use them to exemplify that, in my opinion, the entirety of the bill handles the problems we, as a community, wanted solved. Excellent job, Delegate Weldon!

As to my earlier point about reviewing my internal suppositions and biases, as a conservative, I am wont to have the least amount of government involvement as possible. I also believe that we tax far too much and waste tremendous amounts of money on "feel good" programs. In other words, if you want to do something wrong or poorly, develop a government solution. Aye, there's the rub!

Conservatives are often accused of wanting no government. That is a bait and switch argument. A true conservative knows that human nature is not all that good and we need government to reign in those who would abuse others.

Where we sometimes go amiss is believing that the poor parts of our human nature are inherently involved in the legislative process as well. While this does happen - for instance, the Kelo decision that the state can take land from one private owner and give it to another private owner so more taxes can be generated from the new private owner to benefit the larger population - it is not always the outcome. We have monopoly laws to prevent one powerful person or company to hold complete control over an area of business. How that is applied, of course, is another issue all together.

Generally, people who make legislation have two interests: they want their names on bills so they can come to their constituents and say they "did something;" and they want to represent their constituency. The first interest is annoying and often detrimental. We have soooo many laws on the books, but we are not enforcing them equally. Making new laws does not make society better.

The second interest is more interesting. Is that redundant? Elected representatives are there to put forth the views of their constituency. I believe that most representatives do exactly that.

What becomes problematic is this: they have to work out that position with other representatives who feel differently about what their constituency wants implemented. When we bring these two opposing forces together, we often end up with legislation that is either totally watered-down, or is so stringent that no legitimate leeway is available to the public. In other words, if everyone is unhappy, it is good legislation.

When this outcome does not occur, we conservatives must stand back and recognize that truth and give credit where it is due. I made the fatal mistake of holding to my preconceptions and not recognizing this possible outcome.

Sheesh.

What a pain to have to go back and reassess. I think I will work on that "open mind" thing for future comments. It is much more enjoyable making fun of legislation and practices that are silly than having to make fun of myself.



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