EDITORIAL: Citizens should hold officials accountable

Especially when it comes to the spending of their money

Citizens have every right to question government spending.

Citizens have every right to express concerns over the salaries of public officials.

Citizens have every right to petition Government for a redress of their grievances.

The single most important thing city councils, county commissions and boards of education do is draft and ratify a budget.

Honestly, those elected to office should embrace public scrutiny.

When men and women holding office are defensive, appear to be withholding information, attempt to spin information in their favor and become indignant when called into question, it breeds suspicion and incubates ill will.

If someone gave you $10 to buy lunch and you return with the lunch, but with no receipt and no change, would you grow indignant if they simply asked, “How much was it?”

Taxpayers and citizens have every right to ask, “How much?”

In fact, not only do they have the right to ask how much, they have a right to read the menu, order what they want from the menu and then complain about it if they feel they are overcharged.

Taxpayers do not relinquish all rights to their money when they write the check to local, state or federal government.

Furthermore, when officials spend money, whether it is collected at the local level, state level or federal level, whether it is general sales tax, special local option sales tax, property tax, state income tax, federal income tax, fines, permits or fees money, it is all taxpayer money.

Our form of government is self-government.

Government is not a corporation or a firm and it is not an entity in and of itself.

While a corporation must answer to its stockholders, government must answer to its stakeholders, viz. citizens.

The more transparent a government is, the more trust citizens will have in their government.

If spending is increased in certain areas, it is best just to say so.

If salaries are increased, just be forthcoming about it.

If line items are cut, just tell the people, tell them how it will impact them and then tell them why.

Spinning, speed-bumping the controversial areas and patting yourselves on the back for the portions of the budget you most want to tout as being fiscally responsible, quite simply, does not work.

Whether you are hiding something or not, it makes people think you are.

A word to the wise should be sufficient, but sadly it is most usually not.

If you want people to believe in you, trust you, support you and vote for you tell them the good, the bad and the ugly.

The quality citizens consistently say they want in their elected officials is honesty — and honesty, more often than not, translates into complete government transparency.

It is the job of those elected to office to be accountable.

It is the job of those who elect them to office to hold them accountable.

Those who run for office and are elected should expect nothing less.

Accountability comes with the territory, especially when it comes to how you spend our money.

— Editor Jim Zachary