Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print

photo: thinkstock

The state legislator who wants to get rid of neighborhood boards.

Being a legislator can be as time consuming or as part time as you want to make it. Once you’re elected, you pretty much dictate your own hours and the intensity with which you want to get involved in the process. Some of us are here every day and then some. Others show up for the four-month legislative session, and that’s about it. They do the bare minimum.

Technically, it’s a part-time job, but when you factor in all the time you spend attending functions for your district—things like weddings, funerals, groundbreakings and neighborhood board meetings—you earn your money. (And that would be $46,272.60 per year, plus a $10,200 allowance for office expenses, travel, etc.)

The neighborhood boards are a double-edge sword. On one hand, you get some good information about problems in the community. On the other hand, it’s often the same people discussing the same things they were discussing 10 years ago. And they’re very demanding. They consume the time and energy of a lot of very busy people, including the police, who should be out enforcing the law. Instead, they’re spending 10, 20, 30 hours a month collecting trivia for the neighborhood boards. Honestly, we’d probably be better off without neighborhood boards.

Politicians have this image of being dastardly people, like car salesmen, but I think everybody in the Legislature, with few exceptions, has good intentions. However, we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

Lobbyists get a bum rap. They work hard to try to convince legislators of whatever they’re lobbying for, and they bring a lot of information to the table that would otherwise be hard to get. Where the system gets prostituted is when lobbyists try to buy off an individual legislator with campaign donations, or something along those lines.

The Legislature itself is not corrupt, but there is a tremendous amount of cronyism. Sometimes things that normally wouldn’t get done are done, deals that normally wouldn’t be made are made, and money that wouldn’t normally be spent is spent. The biggest beneficiaries, of course, are the public-employee unions.

Nonetheless, I really believe the vast majority of legislators are well meaning—even if the results don’t always come out that way. It is an honorable profession. For the most part.

—As told to David Thompson