The ruse of representation

Why would elected officials hire a lobbyist? Isn’t that what we elect them to do? Represent us?

The city of Dayton spends money on lobbyists, directly, and indirectly via funding to organizations like the Dayton Development Coalition. In all my years of following the Dayton City Commission, I don’t recall them having meetings with state representatives, state senators, the governor, our congressmen, where they have a discussion about the issues that they are our first line of government on. Sure, they go hob-nob at events, and every once in a while they will talk one-on-one with these people at higher levels, but other than a joint meeting with County Commission or the School Board, I’ve never seen them invite Congressman Turner back to his old haunt for a discussion of the issues. Of course, until just this election cycle, they would have had to invite John Boehner as well, since Dayton used to be split in two congressional districts (conveniently, the line was at Mike Turner’s old back fence on Huffman).

Can you imagine the military working like this? Where the platoon sergeants never met with the company commander? Or the company commander never met with the battalion commander, etc? If the politicians are truly our representatives, they should be meeting with other representatives for a coordinated plan of attack.

Unfortunately, due to our insane system of holding auctions instead of elections, our elected officials are more likely to meet with donors to their campaigns than with constituents. And lobbyists work for who pays them, not who elected them, since they never had to suffer the humiliation of having to panhandle for campaign funds.

This even boils down to within our city. When was the last time you saw the city commission meet with all the neighborhood presidents for a discussion of goals and strategies? Instead, we had the elected priority board system, but, they didn’t meet directly with the commission or the city manager either. All these disconnects are indications of the ruse of representation- if we were truly electing representatives, they’d all be meeting together at least a few times a year to discuss how they could best represent us.

Where are the public forums, hosted by our “leaders” to discuss our plans and purpose? The three minute stand at the podium is regarded by most on the Dayton City Commission as an annoyance. Where is the formalized process of taking citizen issues raised to the commission and issuing an official response to all? Shouldn’t the first order of business each week be a status update on actions taken by the city manager to resolve the citizens’ issues? On the web- we use a software solution “help desk” that tracks issues through resolution- where is the City Commissions help desk?

I started attending City Commission meetings because I went to my elected leaders over an issue that I thought was a farce: the city order to remove new garage doors from my house because they were vinyl imitating wood grain in a historic district. I was met with blank stares and very little feedback. I was punished for fixing up a dump of a house that I bought for $14,500 after it had been on the market for 2 years and dropped in asking price by a third. Maybe, just maybe, had we had representation that listened and acted in a structured, sensible system that utilized the entire “chain of command” we’d have a government that better represented all of us.

When elected to the Dayton City Commission this November, I assure you that you will have at least one voice that believes that it’s my job to represent the voters, all the way to the top, not just where the bucks flow. If this sounds like the kind of elected representative you want, please consider donating to my humble campaign that’s limiting to $10K in donations.

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