Legislature has shirked duties with push to sell nursing home

Posted 22 October 2013 at 12:00 am


County government is the closest to the day to day needs of the public. When a county government operates in back rooms, behind closed doors, it is more like Washington and fails to take into account the voices of the people.

People can get easily confused when both Democrats and Republicans engage in verbal boxing matches as they lay blame on each other and continue to victimize Americans. When government fails to represent their constituents, there is a shutdown. This can happen on all levels of government: federal, state and county.

What is the most important role of an elected county official? The most difficult and challenging responsibility is to connect and communicate with the citizens in their jurisdiction. The County Legislature should inform and involve their voters.

An effective team of county legislators should communicate with the community so the latter knows what the local government is doing and the people should receive feedback when they approach the Legislature. Trust in government is crucial. When that is lost, there is a shutdown, and people begin to doubt the efficiency of their elected officials.

I have never run for public office, but as a registered Republican, I believe I am owed the following from my elected officials:

1. I want to know that the decisions my legislature makes are based on facts that are available to be reviewed and that debate is open to the public.

2. If I contact my legislators, I should be recognized and provided timely feedback.

3. Effective citizen involvement should be encouraged and respected as an integral part of county government.

4. Local governments should utilize techniques from the marketing and business world that center on delivering an honest message and providing opportunities to explore viable options to preserve county assets.

5. Citizens should be valued for their expertise and opinions on issues within the county. Local governments should encourage shared responsibility for community problem solving. This partnership helps the community and the local government as they tackle problems and simultaneously provides the constituents with a sense of ownership in their community.

If effective interaction between government officials and an informed citizenry is absent, it’s time for a change.

As I look over my own experiences with this present legislature, they have fallen short of my expectations, and I know I am not alone in this thought. On more than one occasion there has been an intentional misrepresentation of numbers on the financial portrait of The Villages, our county nursing home. Deliberate omissions on all county expenditures, related to taxes, have been blatant.

Months before the last county election, those who had loved ones in The Villages received a letter from the Legislature indicating their intent to privatize the facility. As the election drew near, the Legislature realized this was a hot bed topic and retracted that intention, indicating they did not want to sell.

As soon as the election was over, the Legislature picked up the baton and ran with their original intent. Well despite this verbal ping pong match that really bamboozled the public, one thing surfaced. The Legislature was not to be trusted.This Legislature has not been open to any debate on this issue of maintaining The Villages in the public domain.

Despite the presence of nearly 60-plus people at the Legislature meeting in February opposing this decision, they maintained their position on this issue and then had the blatant audacity to hand pick their LDC to finish it off. What an insult to the people they represent.

On more than one occasion I have contacted the legislators to at least get some questions answered. The only legislator to ever get back to me consistently was George Bower. Thank you, Mr. Bower, for doing your job.

Shame on the rest of you for shirking your obligation to one of your constituents. Instead of meeting the challenge of saving one of our most valuable assets in this county and relying on the business savvy of people who could have been instrumental in helping The Villages show more of a profit, this Legislature moved to the first exit sign and closed that door on possibility.

Thank God they’re not in the classroom where young minds are at stake. When a challenge presented itself, I taught young people to not always take the easy way out but to look at consequences for their actions and how those affect others around them. One needs to look at all the empty space at The Villages that, under effective management, could have been bringing in money over the years and ask the Legislature, “Why wasn’t this looked into?”

Actions speak louder than words. The purposeful actions of this present Legislature need to be carefully scrutinized by every citizen in this county before next month’s election. We the people, yes, we the people have the ability to change history, but not with the present Legislature. We need some new blood in there to represent the people and meet our needs.

Mary Bannister

(Bannister is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Orleans County.)