They were a rowdy bunch of junior high school students that required a lot of attention. They were disruptive in class, texting each other, and when caught cheating, lying, bullying and hiding information, they blamed others and denied any wrongdoing. They did not do well academically and were seen as outsiders.
In an effort to teach them to conform, they were required to attend a class where they could learn what caused them to misbehave and thus correct their behavior. They were asked to look at themselves, how they saw themselves and complete a self-esteem questionnaire. To the teacher's surprise, they gave themselves high scores. According to their scores, they held themselves in high esteem and felt admired by peers.
I was reminded of those teenage outsiders as our Utah State legislators were doing the same thing — patting themselves on the back, very pleased and giving themselves high marks for their excellent performance in the 2011 legislative session — a B+?
They were a busy bunch, filing over 900 bills with over 100 of them dealing with education. They tried to micro-manage education, revised American history curriculum and politicized the state school board. They continually keep changing education regulations and then complain educators can't manage schools. They continue to complain about federal control yet fail to see how they trampled over local control. Then, like the teens, they tried to sneak in a bill, HB477, that would keep the public from knowing how they were conducting the people's business; but, this time they got caught in a voter protest tsunami that threatens to sweep them away at election time.
Now, they are making excuses, "I didn't read the bill … they made me do it," excuses teachers always hear. The legislature has a behavior class comparable to the teen outsiders called, "Ethics Training." However, from the looks of it, it's not working; one in eight of them was truant, including Sen. Neiderhauser who is adamant about transparency in government. Citizens keep calling for ethics reform, and all we get are token responses and further stonewalling.
Our political system is broken. There is a disconnect between what citizens want, and what we get from our government and leaders. We have legislators giving themselves and the governor "B+" grades for this last legislative session. However, according to a poll, citizens gave them an overall "C," and as low as an "F" by some. When 90 percent say they oppose our elected leaders passing HB477 to limit access to public records, it shows the schism between voters and lawmakers and the arrogance of leaders who show no respect for voters and our government.
When our elected officials tell us they know best and work to keep us from knowing how our government is working, it's a sign our government is breaking down. Our forefathers fought to have a government that belonged to the people and governed by them, not by men and women who now treat voters as meddlers and less intelligent.
Time and time again, voters have said we want to return ethics and trust in government, and all we get are the doors of our government shut in our faces by elected officials that ignore us. By doing so, they have lost our trust and shown their inability to change. Let's remind them that the grade that counts is the one that the voters give them.
A Utah native, John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations; been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch; served on more than 45 state, local and volunteer boards; and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and as a member of the commission on Hispanic education. Email: email@example.com