Lessons Learned In Public Office: How Much I Don't Know

The boldly lettered fact that I am a man with much to learn has always been framed and hanging in the hallway leading to the cluttered library of my mind. Every once in a while I have to stop, while carrying new volumes into my gray bibliotheca, to lift this familiar truism off the wall and meditatively marvel at how ignorant I really am. Usually this musing comes in the wake of a venture into a new life experience, and there are few life experiences that have taught me how much I don't know like serving in elected office.

Perhaps one of the most stunning things I learned was the detail of the context within which local elected officials work. The context is law... lots of law. There are laws covering almost every aspect of elected office. Laws controlling the timing, place, and notice of meetings, laws placing limits on what can be said in meetings and outside meetings, and limits on who officials can talk to about what subjects. There are laws even covering some aspects of the notes an elected official takes at any time about any city business. There are laws limiting the content of some mail, e-mails, and what can be written in a publication. There are laws limiting what decisions legislative boards can make. And, believe me, there is much more. It isn't just statute law, there are volumes of case law and attorney general opinions which tweak and further define the statutes.

Even after over two terms on our city council I was still learning about laws, opinions, and case law that I did not previously know existed. I remember a respected friend with sixteen years in full-time elective office saying he wasn't aware of a specific statute related to his office that a political opponent brought to his attention. Another friend with over 10 years of service surprised me when she informed me she was unaware of a specific statute also brought up by an opponent. The closer I came to executive office the more I found myself depending almost totally on the advice of lawyers. The longer I stayed in office, and the more I learned, the more I became aware of how much I didn't know.

The existence and detail of law is always an indicator of the level of corruption within any culture. The more laws a country has, and the more brutal its penalties, the more it unmasks the corrupt nature and inclination of its people. I explain this in my post Cutting Off the Thief's Hand. Law is never evidence of righteousness, except to the extent that it illuminates the pure source of law. The overwhelming presence of such detailed law is a glaring indictment of us all. And... some of us want more laws, erroneously thinking it will make us better.

With that said, for the person who seeks to know and understand righteousness the law can be very instructive. As the law points out the dark paths of unrighteousness a perceptive student of the law can also make out the bright paths of righteousness. But the more one learns, the more complex the detail of law becomes because the application is alive, it is always moving. Following the light of law is a limitless quest, there are always more questions than answers... at least for someone like me who has so much left to learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails