By Dr. John Crumpton
Last month I talked about the lack of citizen engagement in local government. One of the reasons I identified for this was trust in government — or a lack thereof. Along with fairness, these are the two attributes that people associate with good government. But studies and research show government isn’t trusted and fairness is one of the reasons why.
“Trust” and “fair” are two words probably in your company’s vision or mission statement. They are probably the foundation for treatment of employees in your organization. But say them in a political context, and you may get laughed out the door. It’s hard to explain why government officials aren’t trusted. However, like most issues, it only takes a few bad people to create a sweeping generalization.
Elected officials I’ve worked for have gotten backlash over both “trust” and “fair.” In Scotland County, the chairman of the board was not re-elected after an exchange with a citizen during a public hearing on a landfill. The citizen yelled, “this is not fair,” and the chairman responded with “the fair is in Raleigh in October, and for two weeks you can get all the fair you want. You won’t get any here tonight.”
Three years later in Lee County there was controversy over a new quarter cent sales tax and how the proceeds would be spent. Many in the public wanted the funds spent on education only, while some on the board wanted the funds for both education and economic development. The chairman said, “trust me, we will spend the money on education first.” He didn’t win re-election and actually lost in his primary.
You can’t ask to be trusted. Trust is earned when people are honest and follow through. In my line of work I learned two things that allowed me to earn trust. First, don’t make commitments you can’t keep. Second, always tell the truth even if it hurts. As an appointed employee of the board, I always found it easy to tell people the truth even if my brutal honesty hurt the other person and was not what they wanted to hear.
It’s more difficult for most elected officials to be brutally honest. Each interaction with a constituent is an opportunity to win or lose a vote. Telling you what you want to hear is easy. Telling the truth may not land so well. It’s difficult for an elected official to keep a commitment because three other board members have to go along with it. In my case, if I wanted to get something accomplished, I had to get four votes out of seven from the board. Managers shouldn’t get in the habit of making recommendations their board doesn’t support, because they might not have a job for long. Further, it wasn’t my job to tell the public what the board did was good or bad. I worked for them — and they work for you. You hold them accountable.
Many people assume fairness went out the window with recent “polarization” between the two major political parties. Sorry to bust the bubble, but the two-party system has always had disagreements. The difference between today and say 30 years ago is you get to see it in real time and there is more of it. When I was growing up there were three TV stations that gave the news maybe three times a day. Today we have TV stations that report 24 hours a day. When news is slow, they go looking for it. When there isn’t news, they give their opinion. It’s now more entertainment than reporting. When we have an election of significance the networks talk about the differences of the candidates and interview them 24 hours a day. Political ads are running all day long. It makes things look more polarized when they were that way all along. We just get to see it more often.
Now you probably believe I’m blaming the media for political polarization. No — they’re just talking. You’re listening and reacting. I get frustrated with people who vote based on a 30 second sound bite or candidates calling each other names that are just buzzwords. Last month I wrote about citizen engagement. Swinging your vote based on information digested in less than 30 seconds is not research. It’s not fair to our democratic process that citizens can be swayed so easily. Who is really to blame for the outcome? Voters should do their homework and understand who they’re putting in positions where important decisions are being made every day.
I can remember a picture of U.S. Representative Tip O’Neill (then Speaker of the House and a Democrat from Massachusetts), holding up the arm of Senator Bob Dole (then the Republican Senate Majority Leader) when they passed bipartisan legislation to move our country forward. Bipartisan legislation takes compromise. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of bipartisan votes at all levels of government, you just don’t hear a lot about them. The most difficult issues are the ones that are most polarizing. Just a few months ago inflation and the economy were the top issues in the general election. Has Congress or the President passed legislation to address inflation since January?
How do trust and fairness play into all this? To move our country forward, both parties should try to work together and compromise. That will be blasphemous to many on either side. But when two people compromise, trust is created as long as both can say they got something out of it. Fairness comes into play because a good compromise seems more fair than one side winning all the time.
I’ve never liked the word fair. What I view as fair you may view as unfair. The most important characteristic of a good relationship is respect. Unfortunately, when people think or act differently, we do not respect their right to be different. This creates trust issues, and when we can’t trust each other, we can’t compromise. That’s not fair to anyone.
One last point on politics. In my experience, anyone can be a critic. It’s easy. You don’t have to stand for anything and you can criticize what the majority does without ever being held accountable. But when the situation flips and the critic has to govern, they often have trouble adjusting. Just like in school, the bully doesn’t like to be bullied.
Having seen effective boards work, when the majority is willing to have the minority involved, there is less critiquing going on. This creates trust and fairness. When the majority crams it down the throats of the minority — well, that’s when we have to go to Raleigh to find fair.
Dr. John Crumpton retired as Lee County Manager after 16 years on February 28.
Thank you sir, for a nicely written article. I sure do wish more smart people wanted to work in government.
Don’t gaslight the citizens of Lee County! It is is comical that someone as crooked and backhanded as you ask this question. Its government officials like you that ruin communities and don’t expect any dialogue and discussion to the decisions being made. How arrogant and insulting that you expect blind trust. You sacrifice your own community for your own good and the good of your crooked friends. Shady deals that don’t benefit the community your are supposed to serve.
If youwant proof of utter obscene insanity in blind trust, look at the White House and the irrefutitble proof of this, are the two fools in charge there. Resources, prices, out of control crime, immigration and etc. and etc. are turning us into a third world sewer. Nothing is going to get better as long as IQ’s among citizens continue to drop at such alarming rates, due to their moronic reliance on BLIND TRUST, electronics and what is provided by such, plus the ridiculous number of people allowed on welfare and government assistance programs. My IQ is 190. When I was a child the average IQ was 120 – 130. Today that has dropped insanely low to now, citizens average only a 95 IQ. If you had that IQ when I was a child, you would find yourself with the lowest paying jobs at all times, no matter how talented you were. The reason for this was the lack of ability to comprehend what was right in front of you, and, the inability to show just plain simple common sense. To make money, I did NOT follow what others did. Everyone wanted the easy way out to get rich. I took the nastiest, filthiest, most undesireable jobs available. Cleaning out sewers, septic tanks, shoveling manure, and etc. and etc. If you ask why, because NO ONE would do it for the paltry pay offered at that time, when there was NO MINIMUM wage that could controlled. While others were working for anywhere from $1 – $2.00 per hour, I made my pay based on JOB COMPLETION! Digging up by hand and cleaning out a septic tank, made me more money in one day, than others made in 10 days. And I didn’t have to work a full day either. Another job could be done, I did it, then was making DOUBLE in a day what others had to work ten days for. When looking at welfare scabs who suck the life out of hard working people, I swore to never have a hand in Democracy as long as I lived. Democracy is majority rules. As such, if 501 Democrats were allowed to vote as welfare recipients to take what 500 hard working Republicans have, they as a party have the right to STEAL all the hard worked earnings that others have, by a SINGLE vote, even when they have not earned a single penny of what they have just taken. Democracy is the SOLE LARGEST criminal organization in the world. It allows thieves to take legally all that others have earned, even when those who are into Democracy have not earned a single item they have just stolen, and who have no investment in it. A thief is a thief, especially the welfare scabs who rely on government assistance. When they are capable of making a living by working and fail to do so, you are a lazy thief. During several Democratic Presidents, there are times when this nation actually had MORE PEOPLE on government assitance, than working. The same is happening today. Democracy does NOT allow for balanced budgets. They, like welfare scabs, think anything and everything is okay. Democracy allows the uncontrolled printing of how ever much money they want. They could care less since it is just ink and paper. Looking at the LOWEST deficit, our debt would provide $100,000.00 to EVERY person in the USA right now. And that, is just for the last years the idiot White House choices have been in office. I don’t know where you morons who believe in Democracy live right now, but my wife and I are two retirees who have earned what we have. Never any unemployment. Never any government assistance. Never found the need to suck the life out of others by living as a welfare scab either, and, we are both very ill. My wife of cancer and me with C.O.P.D and P.V.D. – If you want to go back to reliance as a mature, responsible, disciplined adult and learn how to truly survive as my wife and I have and still do (we are in our mid 70’s), then stop Democracy. As long as it has control – all of your lives with be chaos as they are now, and finances will be uncontrollable. To be an adult with wisdome, strength and courage to do the right thing, you have to stop being a leech and parasite who lives off government programs FIRST and ABOVE all else! I make no apologies to life sucking welfare scabs! You deserve every unpleasant word about you I said!
You know, for someone with an IQ higher than Stephen Hawking and Einstein, one would think you would advocate for paragraphs rather than dictatorships, child labor, and abhorrent pay. And you make some pretty bold claims here Mr. Williams. I would love to see some sources rather than buzzwords. 🙂
envious? or just jealous? the words always have that effect on those types of people. truth is painful! – welfare recipient?
To answer the columns question simply. Lack of Trust in the government is a founding principle of this nation.
jealous? envious? the truth is always painful. your choosing to dramatize grammer over the truth speaks for who you are. welfare recipient? democratic thief?
to feel that low pay, child labor and dictatorships is SECOND to a paragraph, speaks of a very obscene immoral character!
at least I have the balls and courage to use my real name? – not cowardly enough to hide?
several deliberate grammatical errors so you can have more to complain about, instead of the truth!
It seems I have struck a nerve Dale. I didn’t mean to offend you my friend. I was simply trying to help you get your point across in a more clear and concise manner. Especially when you have multiple points you wish to make in a single comment, having paragraphs help your reader to see when new ideas begin. 🙂
And you claim to speak the truth. All I ask for is sources supporting what you claim. The burden of proof is in your hands, so you should be able to defend your claims without resorting to name calling or buzzword spamming.
(more grammatical errors just for you) this is the USA. as such, when questioning the ability and words of another, YOU MUST PROVE what I claim is false, not me proving it is real. and since you have shown that grammer is more important to you than reality, your inability to even comprehend what I would provide is a waste of my time. (and I’ll give you examples here below). sources for my claims are the roles of welfare recipients provided by the government on a yearly basis. you can look that up yourself instead of asking someone else to do it, like a entitled welfare recipient would do, or a democrat who doesn’t work and lives off assistance programs. you will offened by the fact I am not religious, nor do I believe the moon landing ever happened. as a loving father supposedly, god knows all before, during and after life events. as such, he knew that when he told adam and eve of the tree of life, they would fail that test. as such, he provided them with the first temptation. having knowledge of the tree of life didn’t do them any good since they DID NOT know how to sample what they were given, since they had never done that before. after tempting them with the tree of life, your god then told them how to sample such. if he did not, they never would have. so, he gave them the first temptation and then told them how to commit a sin. instead of being forgiving, in a rage he cast them out. I don’t know where you see love and forgiveness here, but tempting your children with wrong isn’t love. then punishing them – that is hatred. as for the moon landing fiasco, why isn’t there debris that was left over on the surface of the moon? satellites have traveled more than 200 million miles around the surface of the moon, and nothing can be seen. (plus they have never gone back since they never did the first time, even with modern technology). where is the moon lander they traveled with on the ground?. flags they claim to have planted? other debris? did the man on the moon swep it all off?! and watching old videos of such a landing, why isn’t it questionable that when they lifted off again (supposedly) is there a popping sound? there is no atmosphere there, so sound isn’t possible. i have an analytical IQ of 190. I see things and find flaws in what is assumed reality. Let us take theorists for example. they are pathological liars. everything is an assumption without proof. it’s simply whoever has the best guess is the choice chosen. NONE of them can prove what they claim. the same goes for religious entities. I don’t believe any creator who made me with frailities, flaws, errors. mistakes and etc. has any right to punish me for imperfection. if they are too imcompentent and reckless with my creation, they have no right to punish me. they can punish themselves for their screwing me up, not me. the creator I believe in a a truly merciful one. not one who tempts his children and watches them fail, then in a rage casts them out in hatred for what they did after HE TOLD them to. what kind of god tells his children to do what he knows they will fail at? that is sadistci and cruel. my creator knows we are imperfect. as such, those imperfections ARE NOT our fault since we had no choice in our biological make up. when my times comes, I go and am given another chance. A chance where there is no evil to create problems in my existence (as your god allows evil to exist instead of destroying it, he must be inherently evil to allow such to exist). trying to discredit me doesn’t bother me. I don’t have to prove myself, You have to prove otherwise. unless you are an entitled welfare democrat…..then you’ll assume that being a politically correct liar is all that is required —-
apologies for the sticky 1995 keyboad – has a mind of it’s own
just for fun, how about another subject?! say the last election. if there wasn’t some hanky panky during the last election, and if all voters DID NOT turn out as they claim and were disappointed, how do you explain that we had 25 MILLION more total votes than we have REGISTERED VOTERS nationwide.???!!! how can you possibly have more votes than legal voters?! duhhh
i say that teasingly since going state by state, comparing to legal voters and etc. – the mass total exceeded the 5 mil they claim by another several hundred percent. after comparing flaws and claims, they eventually just gave up counting. by going state by state, it is irrefutible that hanky panky was involved. (oops am I going against political pathological lying correctness again? – shame on me)
going to Cherokee and Harrah’s for couple of weeks. if playing poker there, always go after 12 midnight. the drunks are out in mass. they don’t care about the financial losses, just the fun of trying to win. they’ll call anything and everything just to prove they are soaked in alcohol. I turned $300 into $4,500 in two nights last trip. (oops shame on me, can’t prove that) – see you folks later
(long tedious drive, but worth it) while in Harrah’s in Cherokee, always play the $5/$10 tables. Risk is higher, but drunks don’t care. doesn’t matter if Omaha or Hold em. good players fold idiot hands. drunks soakd in brew call anything regardless of their cards. make some easy cash after midnight. ANY TABLE! see you gang in couple weeks always and I mean always CHECK the nuts. morons like to play excessive sums in bluffs. as $25 hand can result in a few hundred as a win. I personally love drunks at poker tables. I just have to control my drooling
All it takes is a simple online search to prove false the claim that there were more votes reported than there were registered voters. This claim was based on internet memes and false tweets by losers. Multiple sources with real numbers prove this to be a false claim. This means you can’t trust any other claims made by a proven liar.
The FASCISTS are trying to steal our country people. They are tricking you into putting your trust in them. They are appealing to your inner prejudices, and building upon them. They lie, and you cheer them on even when you know they are lying. All because they have an “R” by their name instead of a “D”. Think for yourselves, and save your country.
Dale Michael Williams do you really think anyone is going to read through every sentence in your diatribe? I am convinced we would all be better off if all the right and left wing cable news channels and radio shows went off the air and we all just would watch Gunsmoke reruns.