Here’s the real question at the center of last night’s debate over the hospital expansion… do you, the average tax paying voter, deserve any say in the decisions of your government?
I heard two opinions, one: that elected representatives represent the people, and when in doubt, the people should be consulted. The other:
Asm. Charlie Pierce: “You elected me to make a decision. And I’d like to make that decision tonight.”
So, the Assembly decided last night to allow the hospital to issue $43 million in revenue bonds.
It was abundantly clear to me that this organization feels almost no responsibility at all to the regular citizens of this borough… and neither does the hospital.
If you didn’t catch that, let me say it again more simply: neither the Borough Assembly nor the hospital administrators felt the public should have any role in this decision.
Last night’s debate was never about allowing the expansion, not at any point; it was about allowing a two week delay for public education.
That request was denied on the basis that it could delay the process, and in the meantime interest rates could go up.
But consider this: the only way that public education would delay the process significantly is if the public was forcefully against the decision and enough people came together to demand a vote.
Let me say that again: a decision would only have been delayed if you, the people, were really passionately against this. In that case, for a community hospital, isn’t it a good thing if the decision is delayed because the community doesn’t support it?
But the hospital and the borough agreed the public should be kept out of this decision. They feel that the hospital needs to run as a lean and efficient machine and make these kinds of decisions on its own.
At one point I felt certain that Assembly Member Bill Smith was going to support a delay, an uncharacteristic move; he was speaking about the public’s desire to keep ownership of the hospital and influence over the prices. But then he shocked me by saying that the best way for the public to retain control is to keep them out of this decision and let the administrators do as they see fit.
At the end of the meeting, assembly members again had to apologize to the public for “tongue lashing” and general intimidation. Everyone shook hands and there were no hard feelings, but for those watching the process, and those who were ultimately stripped bare in public, is there much encouragement to continue being involved?
So, you the general public will not get a chance to vote on the bond issue, but that’s not necessarily the Borough’s fault…basically, you had a chance… and most of you missed it.
Your vote on this issue was to show up at last night’s meeting. It was a full house, with about 50 people, but that’s 50 out of 50,000. 0.1% voter turnout.
Yes, the government should represent “we the people,” but so long as the people aren’t engaging with what’s going on, the Assembly and the Hospital will continue to do what they’ve been doing… keeping you out of the process, because they can. They neither trust nor fear the power of the people to make decision.
So vote. But don’t leave it there. Watch what happens, hold your elected representatives to account, or else you’ll get the hospital and the government that you deserve: one that makes decisions for you and expects you to like them.
Oh and by the way… if this attitude sounds familiar, where government makes decisions for you and demands your appreciation, it might be interesting to know that the hospital expansion is partially motivated by changes coming from Obamacare.
Think about it
You can hear the original audio of this feature here: