Monday, November 5, 2007

The down side of public service

Over the past 40 years I easily have attended hundreds -- probably thousands -- of meetings of government bodies.

For the most part, the budget process in any given entity is something worked on over a period of time in which detailed scrutiny is given to budget requests (sometimes even too much). Seldom does the public show up (unless there's a special interest issue involved). That's often true for the final budget hearing.

Then folks get their tax bills -- or catch wind of an impending tax increase -- and there's Hell to pay.

The elected officials, of course, legitimately think, "Where were you when we were holding our budget meetings?"

I used to have more sympathy for that because I understand the point and know how hard most of these people work in this process.

I gave up trying to rationalize that further when I realized that the public generally is content to lay low and stay home which is generally a sign that the public approves of what's being done. Further, when the tax bills come out, people will complain whether it's fair or not.

To Mr., Mrs. and Ms. Public, it's the end result that counts -- the bottom line -- and the process isn't something they want to worry about. They may rise up in collective anger over a boner or a tax increase and, right or wrong, it's their right to do so.

If you're a public official, you need to have a thick skin and get used to it. If not, you ought to consider another vocation.

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