By Zach Foster
Continued from Part 1
Let the reader take into consideration the idea of a large open field on the outskirts of the city or town. This open field is fairly well known. Rabbits and other small field animals make their homes there, while birds and occasionally owls make their homes in the dispersed trees. Environmentalists like to stroll through there in the morning to enjoy nature. Families periodically picnic there in the afternoons. Amateur astronomers like to forget about their 9-to-5 jobs and take their telescopes there at night to enjoy the celestial wonders, away from the city’s street lights and the glows from kitchen windows. Teenagers periodically go there to make out. This open field is in an unincorporated area and is no one’s property, yet it is a very popular place. The community seems to have established and agreed to an unwritten social contract that this un-owned piece of land belongs to everyone.
Meanwhile, the said mayor and city council took notice of their constituents’ lack of civil awareness and saw an opportunity for themselves. They raised city taxes, passed a measure to raise their own salaries, passed another measure to raise the salaries of the top municipal police (in order to have the cops in their pockets), applied for some federal environmental grant resulting in passing another law requiring every homeowner to plant a tree in their front yard or pay a heavy fine (much to the chagrin of those with impeccable front lawns and gardens), zoned an area in favor of porn shops and liquor stores rather than restaurants and mom-and-pop shops. They also, in a closed session, incorporated the popular field, flattened it, tore down the trees, and sold the land to a major globalized department store—a threat not only to the environment and the local wildlife, but also to the local economy, especially the small consumer goods businesses. There is now a chain link fence surrounding the field, and any citizen trespassing will be fined or arrested. All of a sudden municipal elections seem to matter! Better yet, the mayoral candidate that lost the election was in favor of mom-and-pop shops, lower property taxes, and wanted to make the field into a nature park and a wildlife preserve. Don’t municipal elections all of a sudden matter more? After this series of crooked measures, the citizens literally have fewer freedoms and the community has been impacted for the worse. This corrupt mayor and city council represent many politicians who perhaps started with good intentions but were corrupted by the power, prestige, and perquisites that come with the territory of public office.
Those who keep themselves chained to the allegorical cavern walls may still be on their messianic high from voting for Barack Obama in 2008, and not only do they feel good because they took part in “saving the world” by voting for him (or whatever rock star candidate in whatever election), but they also convince themselves that this kind of corruption doesn’t happen, or that it rarely ever happens at all. Reality says otherwise.
New York City councilmember Larry Seabrook was hit with a sixty-six page federal indictment including fraud, scams, false reimbursements (like $177 for a $7 lunch), embezzlement of tens of thousands of dollars from philanthropic organizations, redirecting non-profit funds to his girlfriend’s private account (and he’s married), etc. In California’s city of Bell, City Manager Robert Rizzo was raking in a salary of $800,000 plus schemes on the side, while other city councilmembers and workers were making $357-500 thousand a year, and part-timers bringing in $100,000—all from the public coffers. Corruption charges were filed against councilmembers from Carlisle, NY and Baltimore, MD, city call workers from Dallas, TX and Baltimore, MD. These are just a sampling of the hundreds of municipal corruption cases in the United States from last year alone.
If simple mayors can simultaneously strip their indifferent constituents of freedom and make themselves rich, what is stopping members of Congress—who have multibillion dollar special interest groups throwing money and favors at them—from going down the same crooked route?
Continued in Part 3: City Councils, U.S. Congress, and blissful ignorance in the 2012 elections