Government cannot be of, by and for the people unless it’s before the people.
It should never be forgotten that government belongs to the governed, not the governing.
Whether talking about the federal government in Washington D.C., the General Assembly in Atlanta, the county commission, the school board, or city council, government does not know better than the citizens it represents.
Those elected to office should never usurp the will of the public or assume they know more about what is right for their community than the public at large.
We do not elect officials to think for us.
We elect them to represent us.
That is what is meant by the word “republic,” a representative form of government.
Given a choice between the will of elected officials and the will of ordinary citizens, we should always defer to the people.
The people we elect should never be so audacious so as to abridge the rights and interests of citizens.
Public service is not autocratic rule.
Being elected to office should not be viewed as being placed in a position of authority and privilege.
The Declaration of Independence, provides, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
These words are primary to our entire form of government.
All real power, belongs to the governed, citizens, and not to the governing, elected officials.
We have protections in place, laws, to prevent a governing class from seizing power away from citizens.
The problem, however, is that citizens and the media have become accustomed to looking the other way while officials have become accustomed to looking out for themselves.
Then intention of a public servant should never be to simply do what is necessary to get re-elected.
Their intention should always be to adequately, competently and ethically represent the interests of the citizens they are elected to serve.
Written by Jim Zachary, originally published Henry Daily Herald, Nov. 29, 2013. Jim Zachary is an award winning editorial writer, longstanding advocate for open government, featured speaker at Tennessee Press Association and Georgia Press Institute and creator of both the Tennessee Transparency Project and the Transparency Project of Georgia.