Sussex County Delaware

Guest Commentary:
Getting Involved
 
Guest Opinion ...

Citizen Involvement
Fosters Accountability
Matthew Opaliski, Guest Commentary
 
By MATTHEW OPALISKI
Guest Commentary

Editor's Note: Matthew Opaliski is a Republican candidate for State Senate in District 19. He resides in Greenwood with his family and can be contacted at home at 349-9356 or by email at opaliski@rcn.com.

With another session of the Delaware Legislature, the law-making body in Delaware, set to convene in January, and, a quick note to remind you, the citizens, that those elected to serve are intended to represent your views, collectively, consider holding not only your legislators accountable, but all of them, by getting involved, because you can, and should.

Dover, the capital of the first state, is not so far from anywhere in Delaware, not too far at least that it should keep you from participating in the legislative process, when, everything that passes through the chambers of the House and Senate affects you, somehow, now or later, directly or indirectly.

Not much has changed in the makeup of the legislature as a result of the last election, with 54 of 62 incumbents returning to office.

Technically, only three incumbents lost their seats to a challenger this past fall, and of the other five who will not be returning to Dover, three were drawn out of their respective districts with reapportionment and subsequently lost to an incumbent, and the other two retired.

The State Senate remains Democratically controlled at 13-8, although minus its partisan leader, to put it mildly, in Sen. Thomas Sharp, who retired.

The State House saw a slight shift in balance, adding three more Republican seats, and now stands at 29-12. Thus, the status quo has been preserved. State government will enter the new year no different than it has been in the past few, and because of that, citizen participation is needed to inject some form of accountability.

There are those who would suggest that things are too far-gone and control has been lost. Honestly, I used to agree. However, I no longer accept that notion and I refuse to entertain the thought when brought up by those who remain unwilling to get involved.

Follow me for just a minute and you're sure to draw the same conclusion that Delaware government lacks oversight. Then, all that remains is for you, collectively, to act on it.

It is an accepted practice to judge the future on past performance, and given the recent history of the legislature, coupled with that of this gubernatorial administration, accountability never appears to make the agenda.

From years gone by of surpluses in which the budget grew and grew, to current, and future projections of shortfall, so short that they have all but secured real estate in the neighborhood of the hundreds of millions.

From the now we have it, now we don't, no, wait now we found it, oops, we lost it so we have to do something about it fiscal projections -- from reapportionment and clean indoor air to all of the pieces of pet legislation in between -- from proposals and policy decisions to Acts of the General Assembly that continue to erode your rights, Delaware government has run amuck.

What has fueled this collective general malfeasance in state government you wonder? Partially, it's the fact that the majority of them know all too well, that the majority of you simply don't care to be involved, in any way, until after the fact.

Just look at the last few elections, when in 1998, 22 of 41 State Representatives and 3 of 10 State Senators ran unopposed, or 2000, when 17 of 41 State Representatives and 5 of 11 State Senators ran unopposed, or 2002, when 18 of 41 State Representatives and 9 of 21 State Senators ran unopposed.

Those numbers alone offer a guaranteed return trip for legislators, regardless of their past performance that borders on 50 percent of the entire law-making body.

It's not important so much as to what motivates you to get involved, or even to what degree. What's important is that you are, or will be.

Over the past few years, give or take, there have been a number of issues, both nationally and locally, that have no doubt caught your interest. I know this to be the case with myself and cannot help but think that others feel the same.

In Delaware, because we're so small, the opportunity exists for you to share your view, to make it known that you do in fact care and want to be included in one way or another. And, it is to your benefit to do so because the true concept of our form of government is one that realizes that decisions are best made close to home, among the people that our government is intended to represent. But know this, if you are willing to abandon that concept, then so, too, are those who will make the decisions for you.

For myself, it is refreshing to see an individual, or a group, get involved and take seriously the many issues that face them. As someone that has closely followed Delaware government, and specifically the legislature for some time, I can speak from experience -- getting involved and making your voice heard does in fact work.

Taking those steps may at times seem slow, and perhaps even fruitless, but may it never discourage the effort, because, by making your voice heard, coupled with others who share your ideals, one thing will result: decisions will be forced to return to where they belong -- with the people. It is a no-lose situation, minus a few hours of your time here and there.

It doesn't take a village to raise a child, but it takes more than a few to raise the bar in government.


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