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'09 already rough for Sheila Dixon, other politicos

Just a little more than a week into this new year and 2009 is already taking a toll on elected officials.

Right here in Baltimore, Mayor Sheila Dixon was indicted today on 12 counts after a lengthy three-year probe.

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And in just in the past few days, we saw the indictments of City Councilwoman Helen Holton and Baltimore County Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver. Also today, Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois House. Did I miss anybody?

Now, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Having said that, let's get to it. . .

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I had a conversation with a friend of mine who lives in Michigan. She and I have had many conversations as we watched the Kwame Kilpatrick circus unfold. You remember Kilpatrick, the former, and now incarcerated mayor of Detroit. He has been dubbed "The Hip-Hop Mayor," a man with lots of promise and energy in a city that was decaying and growing stagnant. Where did it go wrong? Kilpatrick could've been a three-term mayor, maybe even governor or senator.

Who knows, a little "Yes We Can" . . . the possibilities could've been endless.

Is the enticement of power just too strong to resist? Is there a sense of having the real ability to operate above the law? (Maybe I should ask Dick Cheney that one.) We all know, when you're a public official, you're squarely in the public eye, and that eye is on you at all times. And with all of the information available in this information age we live in, why risk it?

The conversation with my friend included me pondering something else. Why more "average" Americans don't take up the mantle and represent us. This is government of the people, by the people, and for the people as Old Abe said. Do you have to have a degree from some prestigious school to be able to convey the needs of your community, city, or state? Maybe if we had less of a witch-hunt mentality when it comes to "vetting" our collective representation, more every day people might step forward and seek public office.

I think people are afraid to step out in front of that eye.

Maybe now is the time, with an engaged electorate, for folks to take the next step. Gandhi once said "Be the change you want to see in the world." I don't know about you, but I think I'd like my indiscretions to be tallied BEFORE my public service. I think you can make some mistakes in life -- just not on the people's dime!

Now, I've been accused of being an optimist -- which proves I am an optimist. I'm learning that optimism might be interpreted by some as a negative characteristic! Or, is it that pessimism is just a little more fun?

Hmmm?

(

Kilpatrick photo from Getty Images; Dixon photo from The Associated Press

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