Listening to the choir

Posted: 12/16/2008 by ttownjotes in Delaware, government, governor, Jack Markell

I know that Elbert has a number of religious themes in what he writes, but this post isn’t a case of the choir being in a church – unless you consider government a religion.

This was yet another blog idea which landed in my mailbox; as always it took root in my fertile mind and began the questioning process. I haven’t talked a whole lot about Delaware lately, but this item was chosen especially for my friends there:

Governor-elect Jack Markell will host a public town hall meeting, Tuesday, December 16, to solicit ideas from Delawareans as to how his administration can make state government as effective and efficient as possible. Due to the national economic downturn, Delaware is facing significant revenue shortfalls over the next two fiscal years, and Gov.-elect Markell is looking for innovative, out-of-the-box ideas to cut spending.

The meeting will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the DART/DTC auditorium on 119 Lower Beech St., which is in the Wilmington Riverfront area.

Please feel free to share this invitation with persons who you think would be interested in attending.

All right Jack, consider your request done. Now I have a question on the philosophy of this townhall meeting that your incoming administration should consider.

First of all, this announcement of yours brought to mind something that you said when you first announced to be Governor of the First State. I’ve been on Jack’s e-mail list since his Treasurer run in 2006, and it didn’t take me long to comb my archives to find this nugget from June 19, 2008:

I didn’t want to play favorites. I care about every inch of this state, and I will be governor for every single Delawarean. It only makes sense that my campaign will kick-off in every single town. We have great momentum. Up and down the state, my fellow Democrats are telling me they are ready for new ideas, and a new direction. I’m ready to bring new leadership to Dover, and bring bold Democratic solutions to the problems we are facing in cities and towns all over Delaware.

Yet when it’s time to begin to consider what you’re doing to combat Delaware’s budget shortfall, you schedule this town hall meeting in an area where you drew most of your support, at a time hard-working Delaware residents would find inconvenient at best. Perhaps this will make a good backdrop for the on-the-scene news report during the 6:00 evening local news (with film at 11, as the old television saying goes) but to me it would be more like preaching to the choir. Maybe budget cuts aren’t the “bold Democratic solutions” you were thinking about when you signed up to run for the gig, but it’s the hand you’ve been dealt by your Democrat predecessor. Certainly states aren’t alone in having to make hard choices – ask the half-million plus Americans who went to sign up for unemployment benefits a week ago.

Nor is this the example I would expect from a campaigner who made outstanding efforts to reach out to everyone in the state by scheduling 57 campaign events in 57 hours and through his Tour de Delaware. I may disagree with the ideas Jack has, but can’t fault the hard work involved in getting them out on a personal basis (especially as a guy who’s rediscovered the joy of getting the bike out when the weather’s nice over the last summer as my physical shape improved.)

In order to be a governor for everyone in Delaware, I would hope that your budget-cutting meeting isn’t just a one-time deal and that you seek to spend more time listening to your opposition and considering good counter-arguments as they apply to what they have to propose. Had I decided to locate my abode just a few miles north of where I live now I would be one of those you govern over, and you do directly affect many good friends of mine who live just across the Mason-Dixon Line in Sussex County. I’m sure a good deal of the residents at the southern end of the state already have the “red-headed stepchild” complex of being the forgotten part of Delaware.

Here in Maryland Governor O’Malley preaches a “One Maryland” concept but only seems to govern in the interest of those who live within a few miles of the I-95 corridor between Baltimore and Washington. Governor-elect Markell, if you truly want to be a different kind of Democrat it behooves you to meet face-to-face with voters all over your state as you did while campaigning, not just give the time to those who gave you the votes to be elected.

Crossposted from monoblogue.

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  2. Zafo Jones says:

    If he really wants input, he needs to use the internet the way Obama has. Of course, even then he will alienate a certain amount of the public. Ultimately, this reflects the common geo-centric nature of a lot of our state leaders, who tend to focus on south south Philly (NCCo) and completely forget the lower counties.

  3. Michael says:

    Even though I live in Maryland (and lived most of my life in northwest Ohio before that) it seems to me that state governments tend to focus on the needs of the more heavily populated areas at the expense of the rural ones. When I saw the e-mail it just burned me because the only people who would be able to attend that meeting conveniently are the lobbyists who can drive the hour up from Dover or those in Wilmington who aren’t working or work part-time.