Michael Zimmer: Election a time for accountability
By MICHAEL ZIMMER
Oct 18, 2013 | 3:00 AM
Don't you just love unsolicited free advice? There's one thing you can guarantee about such counsel: It is worth every penny you paid for it. Here's some free advice to any incumbent running for office next year: Don't use the expression "re-elect" in any of your campaign material. There's a virtual anti-incumbent cauldron boiling over in the body politic. People are simply fed up with many long-term elected officials at all levels of government. Entrenched powers in Annapolis like to ask each other questions like which taxes can we raise and how high can we raise them? When not asking those two questions, they wonder about creating whole new categories of taxation. When candidates for the General Assembly start asking for your vote between now and the primary next June, have a couple of questions ready for them. How about asking how incumbents voted on the flush tax initiated several years ago? Remember the transfer tax requested by the commissioner board of Julia Gouge, Dean Minnich and Perry Jones? It was shot down by the majority of General Assembly members representing Carroll County, but some currently serving members did vote in favor of granting the Board of Commissioners the power to impose a tax on transfer of real estate. Then there's our current Board of Commissioners. For the last two and half years they seem to like to ask questions such as on what new subjects can they squabble? Another choice question they frequently share is in how many ways they can impugn each other's motives. I had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of such questions about my motivations by my then-fellow Commissioner Dean Minnich. He once accused me of having political motivations for scheduling a series of public meetings designed for regular folks to attend and ask me questions. Some elected officials have such interesting ideas of what public engagement looks like. Then we have the mother of all messes, Washington, D.C. For the last three years Congress and the President have lurched from one crisis to another. They've had repeated last minute showdowns over the budget, tax hikes and raising the debt ceiling. Every time we reach one of these impasses the rhetorical war of words reaches even higher levels of shrillness. If there were ever a time for leadership it is now. I'm not seeing a lot of leadership in the halls of power of our nation's capital. There's plenty of finger pointing, but not so much leadership. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta offered some sobering comments on these problems at a recent public event. His thoughts were captured by The Washington Post and other media sources. He remarked on the importance of remaining engaged in the process. Panetta said, "We govern either by leadership or crisis. If leadership is not there, then we govern by crisis. Clearly this town has been governing by crisis after crisis after crisis." Panetta is not exactly some right-wing hack. He's a former Democratic member of Congress. He served as chief of staff to President William J. Clinton. Prior to serving as Secretary of Defense, President Barack H. Obama had named him Director of the CIA. Incumbents in general tend to do well in their re-election efforts. It is too soon to tell whether next year will break such trends. President Ronald W. Reagan once said that an election was a "time for choosing." Perhaps next year it will also be a time for accountability.