Opinion Columns & Blogs

Elected officials must learn that trust is a two-way street

Merced County District 2 Supervisor Lee Lor listens to public comment during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors. She is unhappy the board rejected public participation through the “participatory budgeting” process.
Merced County District 2 Supervisor Lee Lor listens to public comment during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors. She is unhappy the board rejected public participation through the “participatory budgeting” process. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Democracy thrives on trust. Constituents, residents and families across this great country must be able to trust their elected officials to do what a supervisor, city council person, school board member or any elected officials thinks is best.

Trust paves the way for accountability and transparency, because residents need to trust that the official will be accountable for his or her decisions and then be clear about the outcomes of his or her choice. Did it work? Did it fail?

For trust to be established, that information must be shared with the community.

Trust is a two-way street. As the supervisor for District 2 in Merced County, I trust my constituents. I truly believe the families and residents I represent know better than anyone else what their neighborhoods need to be healthy, what their children need to happy and what their community needs to succeed.

Recently, the board of supervisors voted 3-2 to eliminate the district project funds from the Fiscal Year 1017-18 budget. This essentially ended the “participatory budgeting” process and program that I was working on with my colleague from District 1, Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza. It also sent a clear message to the residents of Merced County: We don’t trust you.

Participatory budgeting would have put real power where it belongs – in the hands of real people. It would have allowed folks to directly vote on how to allocate discretionary funds in Districts 1 and 2.

Politicians often say that people don’t get involved in the political process. Maybe they don’t get involved because of decisions like this.

What message are we sending to the community by taking away this process? We’ve already established a steering committee; we’ve set up rules; we are ready to go. Then this happens.

Of course, I’m disappointed, but I won’t be discouraged and neither will Supervisor Espinoza and the hundreds of residents and organizations who have already started this process.

Rest assured, the steering committee will move forward and will engage people about how to improve our community house by house and block by block. Residents in Districts 1 and 2 will still have the opportunity to design and present projects and then submit them to the board of supervisors.

Lee Lor represents District 2 on the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

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