Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bonanza Column 185 – Trustees, not Representatives

Before I get to this week's subject, a personal note. Very often when I'm out and about in the community, people will tell me that they like my columns, or even that while they don't always agree with me, they appreciate the way I approach my topics. On the other hand, there are people who post on the Bonanza website and are just insulting – my favorite is the person who said "no one cares what you think, Ed" (well, you did – enough to read and comment). Sometimes people will say I don't have my facts straight – when they correct something I got wrong, I appreciate it, but mostly they just make the accusation, which suggests to me that (a) they don't like the facts I cite or (b) they don't know the difference between facts and interpretations. In any case, thanks to all of you who read thoughtfully. For the others, be assured, I'm not going anywhere. Live with it.

Now to business: With the primary and the election coming up, it seems worthwhile to me to review some things about the IVGID Board of Trustees.

First of all, there's that term "Trustees." A trustee is "a … person to whom property is legally committed to be administered for the benefit of a beneficiary." There's something important to notice there – a trustee administers on behalf of the beneficiary. They don't represent the beneficiary and they're not accountable to the beneficiary. The IVGID Board is charged with administering the assets of the District, but they're not our representatives. – we get to elect them every two years, and so if we don't feel they're operating for our benefit, we can replace them, and as public officials they are required to give us the opportunity to be heard on issues we're concerned about, but if, in the last analysis, they decide that what is going to benefit the District has them act contrary to what some or many people want, they not only have the right to do that, but they have a legal obligation to do that.

A representative, for example in Congress, on the other hand is supposed to do just that – represent the views of his or her constituents. We can't all be there to vote on the laws, so we elect someone to represent us. Since this is a democratic republic, the majority rules, and so it's not unreasonable for a congressperson to represent the majority view in his or her district, perhaps to the detriment of the minority. That's pretty much what democracy is about – the rule of the majority, with the courts there to watch to protect the rights of the minority if the representatives go against the founding principles of the republic.

So what we are electing in November is Trustees, not Representatives. Years ago, the people who then lived in the area decided that a GID was the form of government they wanted, and instituted it. Since then many people living here have tried to change that to a different form of government – a town, a county – that would expand the purview of the governing body beyond water, sewer, trash, and recreation and would provide for a governing body that would be more accountable as representatives, but so far that hasn't gone anywhere.

So when we judge an incumbent like Gene Brockman or any of the aspirant candidates, we should judge Gene's record and the statements and proposals of all of the candidates based on what the job is – to hold our community assets in trust and to be good stewards – to administer them for our benefit. One measure of stewardship is that a good steward leaves the assets entrusted to him or her more valuable than they were when the steward took office. When I hear about so-called "financial conservatism" that sounds a lot like "don't spend any money," I wonder if that will leave the community's assets more valuable. When I look at the Trustees spending money to fight lawsuits that would devalue our beaches, I see them doing their job.

Last week's Bonanza's "Word on the Street" asked "Does the IVGID Board Represent you?" With all due respect to my colleagues, I think this was the wrong question – I would have asked "Does the IVGID Board Do a Good Job of Caring for the Community's Assets?" That's the question. Now, on June 8 and in November, let's answer that question the only way that matters – at the ballot box.

1 comment:

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