ON THE TRAIL
"Learn to Participate Locally"
(July 16, 2002)
I did not get the required number of petition signatures to have my name printed on the ballot. There is lots of support out there for an independent candidate, but I have found people very hesitant to sign. And when one thinks about it, having to put what is essentially one's "vote" on a public piece of paper is totally contrary to the democratic principle of entitlement to a secret ballot. More on this at another time.
I will still, however, be an official write-in candidate by now paying the $600 filing fee so votes for me are counted. "Mickey Mouse", "Santa Claus", and the like won't be. There will be a list of write-in candidates posted at each precinct, in each booth as I am told, and since I will likely be the only write-in, it should not be hard to identify my name and write it on the only blank line provided on the whole ballot. More about this at another time.
But my mission has not changed. To focus on the local issues, the ones we locally can do something about. Of course we need to support our Sheriff, and then there are always the roads. But as I go on the trail, I am ever more certain that, at least in the long run, education and participation in local government is both the problem, and the solution.
By education I do not mean just that which is taught in the schools. I am talking about the whole experience we, as adults, can partake in to keep ourselves informed, so that we can communicate with each other, understand each others' problems and goals, and educate each other and the next generation by openly, freely, and intelligently communicating. School education is of course not under the control of the County, but what goes on there affects us greatly. We, as a county, get either a productive taxpaying citizen, or someone we have to "process" and "process" by arrest, court, probation, jail, etc., and pay, and pay, and pay out of our tax money. Less money available for roads. More on that at another time.
As for local government, I have found a general lack of knowledge as to how our County is run, what goes on inside our courts, and a wide distrust of all authority. This was even before the recent disclosures of fraud by "insiders", of "cooking the books" at Enron, Arthur Anderson, Global Crossing, and lots more.
And I now recognize my own total ignorance, just a few years ago, as to how the County is run, and what goes on in our Courthouse. Even that there was such a thing as a "Commissioners' Court", and that it was presided over by a county judge, a position for which I am now myself a candidate. I was not "interested", because I just assumed that everything was being taken care of by someone else, and that if I tried to be productive, and did not break any laws, everything would be ok. I did not stray far from engineering and later ranching with a few cows. I bought my farm in 1981. My aged parents, then 80 and 86, moved in with me in 1985. I taught science and math in Martins Mill that year. I bottle raised about 60 calves I had gotten from one of the dairies. Later on I tutored some of the neighborhood kids. More about that at another time.
But it took an experience in 1995, in our 294th District Court, to "awaken" me. It was my personal 9-1-1, Enron, and Anderson all rolled into one. It would not have happened if I had, in school or elsewhere, been "educated" about courthouses, or rather how they can be abused. It would not have happened if there had been sufficient "learned" voters in the past few years to vote some of the problems out of office. More about this at another time.
Some may believe that "voter apathy" is the cause of our problem in Van Zandt County. But I believe it stems from a deeper problem. A perception of a group of "them" in the courthouse "doing whatever they want to do". If this is the case, it is only because the rest of us are letting them. It is time for a kindling of real interest in our courts. My experience sure has been "interesting", to say the least, and I believe it makes a good starting point to a real learning experience.
Therefore, as part of my mission to foster citizen awareness, education, and participation, I hereby post, on this web site, the following matters regarding me, my mission, and my experience.
Send your representatives to Austin and Washington to make the laws. But also act locally, by letting our commissioners know you want open government. Tell them to quit stalling and get the County Web page up and running, with information on it. Go to the District Courtroom, and learn and listen. Tell them to put the microphones on so you can hear. Learn how they do law. What good is the law if ordinary people do not understand it, and then are asked to sit in judgment to decide if anybody has broken the law or damaged someone.
Find out what is being buried in the kitty litter box.