Yes, there will be a few more partisan entries in coming weeks.
A friend of mine – Joshua Rocks – is running for freeholder in Camden County, NJ as a Republican. You’re already wondering why you should care. Well, as Josh himself put it recently while collecting signatures for the petition to run, it’s about offering a choice. At the most basic level, the system doesn’t work unless people actively participate in it. The Democratic party has run the Board of Freeholders for 18 years. No one’s saying there absolutely has to be a change. But it is tempting to think that the process doesn’t matter when things seem set already.
Josh has a great skill set. I owe him hugely for supporting me when I first started blogging, and I can attest that he’s teaching me a thing or two about how to work with people. I could probably demonstrate on some theoretical level that 99% of politics is working with people. Even when we talk about institutions, for example, we talk about accountability, transparency, fairness: these are not value-neutral terms. The point of government is to serve. Again, though, nothing may have to change.
I’d like things to change. I’m not speaking for Josh here, just myself. Josh has a responsibility to be as informed as possible and deal diplomatically with some very difficult issues. I’m just a voter. As a voter, when I see the county is reporting a $43 million dollar budget gap, I have to wonder whether the recession is the only issue facing the county. I can’t say stories like this about Camden County’s jail make me things are being run well:
The county jail was built to hold about 1,083 inmates. But according to this laid-off officer, there are still three and four inmates in cells designed to hold a single prisoner. Some sleep on the floor and, on some days, 70 inmates have to wait in line just to use a single bathroom.
And there are other issues regarding county services and the budget that can be brought forth. It could turn out, of course, that things are being taken care of as best they can be. Difficult economic times do demand a lot out of public servants. But I know Josh is about accountability, transparency, fairness and all those things that make government work well for us. And I can’t say there’s lots of positive news about how Camden County is being run now. Perhaps “change” is a good platform to run on when one is testing the very basics of the system.