Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

February 15, 2013

Feeling good in Frankfort

ASHLAND — Democracy is an imperfect system. It can be loud and messy but it only works when the public is engaged and its elected leaders are responsive.

I’ve covered municipal and county governments in Kentuckyø for close to a decade now. It is the level closest to those it serves and functions best, in my opinion, simply because it must. It’s hard to hide from your neighbor.

This week, for the first time, I got an opportunity to watch and report on our state legislators at work in Frankfort. State government is definitely more complicated, louder and messier — at least in the House and in the marbled hallways of the Capitol building and Annex where I spent my time.

Despite the chaos of matching T-shirt constituents and the crush of suited lobbyists, I came away with a good feeling. There are some elected folks up there who really do care about what’s best for those of us at home and who are working awfully hard for us.

Our delegation was particularly impressive. I’ve always had good working relationships with our local state representatives and senators. They always call me back and are always willing to sit down and talk, even when the most controversial or divisive topics are on the table.

I found them the same way in Frankfort. They made time for me, even if it was just to let me launch questions at them as they ran from place to place. Others gave me a seat in their office and responded to the volley while simultaneously pouring over mountains of green slips from constituents or answering as many as three chirping phones.

But I’m with the media though, you say. I’ve got the power of the pen.

Well, I bumped into plenty of folks from our area who had made the trip to the Capitol too. There were hordes of school children and youth groups, nonprofit leaders, groups of city employees, concerned retirees and issue activists. Every time I turned around I saw a familiar smiling face from our side of the state.

Each of these groups I talked to also reported they had gotten the same treatment. They were able to meet with the legislators they came to see and at the very least were listened too. Others reported they got what they came for, or were promised help.

The story wasn’t the same, though, when I talked to some acquaintances of mine from another part of the state. I first saw them while they waited hours in the jam-packed hallways of the office suites to bend their representatives’ ears.  

When I saw them later they were clearly disappointed. All they wanted was a chance to be heard. I talked to other strangers who were frustrated and angry. Their representative would never meet with them, they angrily reported.

I left Frankfort and drove home east proudly. I applaud our local elected officials. We have a lot of problems to solve here on the other side of the Winchester Wall, but our local delegation isn’t one of them.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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