Monday, August 14, 2006
All Politics are Local
Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Tip O'Neil, made the phrase "all politics are local" (he said "is" but "are" would appear more appropriate) famous in his book, "Man of the House" (an interesting read I could recommend as a biography) but today I found out that he was given the phrase by his father who only ran for public office one time for city council (http://www.geekbooks.com/blog/archives/000006.html).
Last week I was able to attend my own local city council (Apple Valley, Minnesota) to see them in action. Between business travel and racquetball night falling on Thursdays when the council meets I have not been able to attend since I moved here. The meeting itself was uneventful since it lasted only 30 minutes and nearly 20 minutes was dominated by a technical demonstration of a new (federally mandated -- so much for the 10th Amendment) voting machine for this year's elections. After some basic questions about the machine's operation and the inevitable comments about "hanging chads" the demonstration fortunately ended.
I have to educate myself on this a bit more but the city council met at 6:30 pm for its "informal council meeting" followed by the 8 pm "city council meeting" (formal I guess) which was followed by a closed session focused on a legal dispute regarding eminent domain so the general public could not attend. Assuming we want open, transparent government with the general public involved I see no reason for the council to meet "informally" versus just having the one session for us common taxpayers to attend at 8 pm.
Regardless of the bland agenda items I am glad I attended and would encourage readers to become local watchdogs themselves by attending their own local government meetings to see their tax money at work.