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It’s time to take local control seriously

Essay by Ellen Miller

Government – November 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

by Ellen Miller

It’s hard to worry about too many people being on drugs. What’s worse is that too many people have completely lost any sense of reason or perspective and they aren’t on drugs, so what in the world do they blame it on?

Several recent items come to mind. One is the 6-year-old boy accused of sexual harassment after he kissed a classmate, who happened to be of the female persuasion, on the cheek. The kid was subjected to all kinds of grief, starting with his teachers deciding he couldn’t have ice cream that afternoon and culminating in becoming an involuntary media object of attention.

The second was a warning from a pharmacologist from no less than the prestigious Johns Hopkins medical complex who warned that caffeine “could be catapulted in a public perception from a pleasant habit to a possibly harmful drug of abuse,” much like what happened to cigarettes.

Next we have a case going before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the justices will decide whether the state of Georgia can require candidates for governor and other top state offices to undergo drug testing before they go on the ballot.

In the meantime, here in the rural West, every candidate running for everything pledges allegiance to: guard the water, improve the highways, get more school money, make health care in the boondocks better, and — the Holy Grail — local control.

So let’s see with the above cases what local control should mean. Whatever ninnies sit on the school board where the kid was charged with sexual harassment… well, at best they should be tossed out at the next election. A recall election right away would be even better.

Regarding caffeine, or booze, or cigarettes, or helmets on motorcycle riders: anybody who does any of the above likes doing it and will continue to. You’d need a Gestapo society to prevent any or all of the above. Is that what we want? Law-breaking, whether under the influence of drugs, booze or Twinkies, is still law-breaking and should be punished. If people practicing the above don’t break the law, what’s the problem?

Drug tests for elected officials? Some of the elected officials in office today likely would benefit either from ‘ludes or grass, to slow them down, or cocaine, to wake them up. Drugs can’t affect judgment unless there’s judgment to begin with.

Here in Colorado, there’s a benign-looking ballot item that would let the legislature set qualifications for sheriff. Right now, apparently anybody of legal age, without a felony and warm and breathing, can get elected sheriff. Presumably the legislature would require so many years of being a cop or some such basic descriptions of the job.

What’s next? If the legislature decides that all coroners need to be docs, what about the counties who have no docs? Should the legislature require that all assessors be real estate brokers (what a nightmare) or decide that county treasurers be certified public accountants? The next logical step is requirements for legislators, and no legislator I’ve ever met would for one single second stand for any standards at all.

The standard is set by the voters. If you believe in local control then exercise it. Toss out the clueless and vote for anybody who has something resembling a working brain. Otherwise, the lawyers will rule the world.

Based in Grand Junction, Ellen Miller covers the Western Slope for The Denver Post.