Public office holders should use sense in spending dollars

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2001

Will Rogers is reported to have said that &uot;90% of the politicians make the other 10% look bad.&uot;

Although I am sure Will Rogers made that statement in jest, sometimes you get the feeling that there is a lot of truth in it. This last week the airways and newspapers have been filled with stories of alleged wrongdoing by office holders, and it does reflect badly on all those who hold the public trust.

Most of the attention has been centered around two of my Senate colleagues who made a trip to Paris, France, apparently at taxpayers’ expense. I personally do not approve of this in any shape, form or fashion.

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First of all, it is questionable in my mind whether or not a trip to the Paris Air Show (whatever that is) by a state senator can bring any positive benefit to Alabama. Perhaps it could be beneficial for the governor or our economic development team to be present for the meetings associated with this international event, but even then I think the monies which we spend from our state treasury on such a trip should be earmarked directly for industrial development contacts.

Many stateside meetings are held annually that can be very beneficial to a legislator. The Southern Legislative Conference, which is composed of 16 southeastern states, has outstanding programs once a year to benefit the service and performance of a legislator, and SLE has a large number of printed materials that are designed for this same purpose.

In addition, the National Conference of State Legislatures has two meetings a year designed to inform state legislators on national issues. The governing bodies of both these groups are comprised of state legislators, therefore, they are well aware of the problems facing the respective states which is most helpful in designing meaningful programs.

Despite the significant benefits that can come from attending some of these meetings, very few legislators take advantage of them. I think one of the reasons is that the media is always harping on legislators taking &uot;junkets.&uot; This has a tendency to intimidate the officeholder and therefore rather than benefiting from the program he or she elects not to go.

I personally think it is shameful that the media paints all the meetings and all the legislators with the same brush. It is true that there are some unimportant, unnecessary and self-serving trips made by legislators, and these should be pointed out and criticized. But there are also some meaningful meetings that clearly enhance a legislator’s ability to provide effective public service, and these should be recognized for the value that they give.

Personally I do not think the Paris trip falls within the category of an &uot;appropriate trip,&uot; and I am hopeful that it will not serve to give a bad name to all the other legislators who feel as I do.

Each day members of the legislature should remind themselves that they have been placed in a position of public trust. It is our responsibility to guard that trust and not to abuse it. I think an elected official who keeps that thought in mind will make the right judgement about trips at taxpayers expense, as well as all other matters.

Remember &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government. You can reach me at 334-242-7883, or write me at P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049.