Op-Ed

Jon Larson: Take my job, please

Now that last year's uninspiring election is over, let us ask why we must continue voting for so many statewide constitutional offices.

Shouldn't we expect our governor to be the point person, directly responsible for efficiently running our state bureaucracy? Do we really need or want an elected commissioner of agriculture, a secretary of state, a treasurer or even a lieutenant governor to be in a position to buck the will of our chief of state?

In 2010, I ran for election on the single issue of questioning why we need to perpetuate the office of Fayette County judge executive. I promised my efforts toward eliminating this unnecessary structure of government.

Like the issues of eliminating other state offices, and consolidating other constitutional organizations (consider whether 120 counties is too many, each with overlapping city and county police, fire and other departments), this will require a constitutional amendment.

Frustratingly, political insiders tell me they doubt the General Assembly will get around to enacting a constitutional ballot initiative on a single-county issue.

Why can't our legislators be forced to reinvent government? Isn't that their job? Don't the concepts of "good government" and "wise use of our tax money" require them to creatively seek better ways to use our limited resources?

In the year since I was elected (over a 30-year incumbent, with a greater number of votes and a wider margin of victory than our then-new mayor), I went to the Capitol in Frankfort 10 times during the last session of the General Assembly. Although I offered to testify in committee meetings in each chamber, neither bill to abolish my office was brought to a vote. Of course I will do what logically seems to be the right thing by continuing this effort.

In the meantime, enthusiastically and gratefully, I perform the functions of my office (which should have been done away with in 1974 when the merger amendment was enacted uniting Fayette County with Lexington). I sign for the sheriff's office to pick up fugitives (even though I have no judicial authority nor funds to pick them up). With the three commissioners (only two even filed for these elected positions), I vote to pass on our county's share of gasoline tax money for roadwork as we are advised by city engineers. I am sued as representative for a county government which has no money and for which the city accepts statutory responsibility after I bring them the complaints, and so on and on.

Never have I discovered anything this office does which someone else in local government could not and should not do. Why must our citizens continue to endure this madness?

Of all the constitutional offices which could be eliminated, mine is the only one to have been directly submitted to the voters since we passed amendments eliminating state tax assessors, railroad commissioners, commissioners of education and some jailors.

Perhaps you have heard of the "Urge to Merge" movement now being considered in Garrard, Anderson, Estill and McCracken Counties. The General Assembly in 2006 finally got wise enough to concoct a scheme of merger avoiding the dangling duties and responsibilities of the county executive by which the legislatively inferior position of cities can now be merged into the constitutionally superior organization, the county (unlike the way we and Jefferson County/Louisville were merged).

It is my belief that our citizens want smaller, better, reinvented government. If you want to join me in this quest, please speak to each of your state representatives and senators — and demand action.

The time is right. After his reelection, Gov. Steve Beshear promised a "lean and efficient government." Isn't this our cue to work toward better with less government? Paraphrasing President John Kennedy, let us dream of things that never were but should be.

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