Monday, April 26, 2010

Building Trust Between Citizens and Their Government

Following up on last week's blog posting regarding the Pew Study with the shocking findings that citizens don't trust their legislators, today's post is the first in a two part series on what politicians and citizens can do to improve the situation. Today I'm focusing on politicans. Tomorrow I'll focus on citizens.

So, without further ado -- three things politicans can do to move themselves up on the trust ladder.
  1. Improve constituent communications: Time and time again I have advocates tell me "I wrote a letter to my Congressman about issue X and I got a form letter back about totally-unrelated issue Y." No wonder citizens feel that politicians aren't listening! However, rather than assuming politicians and their staff are sitting around eating bon-bons all day and sending random letters, let's look at the reasons behind why this happens. In fact, in most cases, what it boils down to is a resource problem. Did you know that since the advent of the Internet, constituent communications have at least quadrupled? Yes, you read that right. And yet the resources available to deal with those communications have remained virtually unchanged. Members of the House, for example, have the same number of staff as they had before the Internet. While Congress has certainly become more efficient in managing these communications, the panacea of "increase efficiency" can go only so far. At some point, it's time to get more people and systems in place to manage the problem.Although it would be wildly unpopular, members of Congress should use their own advocacy skills to make the case for additional funding, and then apply those funds to solving this urgent issue.
  2. Be clear about why you're in Congress: Every elected official has his or her own reason for enduring the grinding 24/7 schedule and constant stream of abuse that, these days, is the hallmark of a Congressional career. 99.9% of the time it's not "because I like to be powerful." For the most part, it's because they want to achieve some specific policy goal or because they want to help their legislative district or state. Members of Congress need to be clear ? to themselves and to their constituents ? what their proactive agenda is, even in the midst of partisan bickering and infighting.
  3. Stop adding fuel to the fire: Hopefully it goes without saying, but for heaven's sake politicians should please stop any unethical, shading or just plain disgusting dealings that make the whole institution look bad. Former Rep. Massa, I'm looking at you.
Tomorrow -- what can you do to make a difference? Read the blog to find out!

1 comment:

YJ Draiman for City Council said...

We need honest government with integrity.
“Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”

Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.
As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end.

Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job.

Action speaks louder than words.

Every age needs men who will redeem the time by living with a vision of the things that are to be.

Freedom is not an ideal; it is not even a protection, if it means nothing more than the freedom to stagnate.

Action speaks louder than words.

An Independent is someone who wants to take the politics out of politics, a person with principles.

"The benchmark of a civilized society is the quality of its justice"