My Turn; Working together to effect change

M. Kate West
Chester Editor


In the past two weeks I’ve heard several suggestions about changing the face of politics that have made tremendous sense to me.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made the first suggestion and has since started a movement to cut off funding to politicians seeking re-election.

It was his opinion that lawmakers are only interested in re-election and who could argue with that? We have all witnessed the lack of action on critical issues because it seems like many congressional and state lawmakers vote or stall votes based on the desires of special interest groups.

I would also agree with his statement “The lifeblood of re-election is fundraising.”

Unfortunately, even if you keep your money and I keep mine close to home I don’t see where we are going to have much of an impact.

At last count Schultz had about 100 big money contributors sign a pledge not to donate. Despite the economy, there is tremendous wealth in America and those 100 pledges are just a drop in the bucket.

Regrettably, many of those other dollars are tied to partisan politics and belong to those who will do anything to win on a straight party ticket.

Democrat or Republican, I don’t think it makes a whit of difference anymore; they all seem alike.

I am, however, going to give Schultz full marks for effort. I think if more folks out there shared their strategies we could each be more encouraged about bringing about change.

I also feel that the more people give serious consideration to change and then follow up thoughts with action, the better the chance we will all stand of gaining back some of what we have lost these past years.

The second suggestion I heard went straight to the heart of accountability and self-education.

During a meeting in Lake Almanor last week, past Plumas County Supervisor Bill Coates spoke to community members about leadership.

He talked about promises made and holding our elected officials accountable.

When asked how we can do this he offered advice that fits with the way journalists write articles and law enforcement officers write reports: Fundamentally, each written piece should have the components of who, what, when, where, why and how much.

The self-education part of his advice was about each of us learning to question our leaders.

He used the example of the United States Forest Service saying it was going to reduce catastrophic fires on national forests.

Sample questions under this type of scenario would include: Who is going to do this? When will they do it? What will be affected? Where will this happen? How much change will this make? What will it cost?

He also hit on the topic of money when he talked about questioning leadership.

He said you see candidates in your area when they need your vote and your dollars. He also said once elected they learn they can stay in the larger, more metropolitan areas and gather even bigger money at one function.

To that end his advice dealt specifically with accountability. He said that after candidates have been in office for a period of time they should be invited back to your community where you can follow up on the campaign promises they made.

He suggests you use “their same words” and question the who, what, when, where, why and how much of campaign promises made.

Based on the response of the elected official, you, as a voter, can make up your mind as to next steps.

Once again, just plain old common sense that offers a strategy not beyond our everyday reach.

Lastly, I’ve noticed something else happening recently that offers a glimmer of hope for change: less partisanship in the way people are responding to surveys and blog posts.

Over the past three years party lines have been drawn and criticisms have been nearly hateful in the blaming of the other political group.

What I am hearing and reading more is when speaking or writing, fewer folks are taking sides. They seem to be finding equal fault in our system of government.

I am probably most heartened by this change and hope it grows across the country.

America to me has always been the land of opportunity and despite the desperate circumstances we face today, I find hope renewed by wise words and the empowerment that comes from easily attained strategies.

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