If you want to understand why Mississippi ranks last among the 50 states in virtually every metric, read Politico’s piece about Gov. Haley Barbour’s recent taxpayer funded junkets in a state-owned jet.
Barbour spent half a million bucks flying himself to Vegas, to Republican fundraisers, to the Cotton Bowl, and to wherever his porcine little heart desired.
Imagine the reaction of Colorado residents to such gubernatorial profligacy! The legislature would vote to censure or impeach. The U.S. Attorney would consider criminal charges. His/her political career would be over – he’d most likely resign in disgrace.
But Mississippi is last for a reason.
Here’s what a Democratic foe of the governor had to say, as quoted in Politico.
“His traveling doesn’t bother me,” said state Rep. George Flaggs, a Democrat who has been critical of the governor’s recent budget proposals. “I know that the governor may or may not use the plane for political purposes. That’s what politicians do.”
That’s what politicians do? Not in Colorado, and especially not in Colorado Springs.
We’ve had ignoramuses and ideologues, moral titans and cheerful womanizers, tax-and-spend liberals and tightfisted Bruceites, slippery hypocrites and naïve truth-tellers, beautiful women and fat men…but we haven’t elected many crooks. Our politicians don’t get rich from their connections, and they live modestly. They don’t take the state jet on junkets – they don’t take the state jet anywhere, because we don’t have one.
The late Bill Hyer, a brilliant artist who served on the County Planning Commission 25 years ago, was once offered a bribe by a recently-arrived developer. Hyer didn’t simply refuse the bribe – he called the FBI.
A few years after, when I was serving on city council, Bill told me the story. I was envious – why hadn’t developers come to me and offered bribes, and given me the opportunity to demonstrate my proudly incorruptible nature?
“Well, John,” Bill said, “I’m sure that they realized that you’re a paragon of moral rectitude, and it never occurred to them to even try. On the other hand, it may be that you simply don’t have the power to affect their interests one way or the other.”
Bill was right on both counts. That was one of the virtues of the City Manager form of government, which local voters kicked to the curb in November. Just as Colorado’s governor has comparatively little power, the city’s governmental structure divided power between the mayor, the city council, and the city manager.
No one person could deliver the goods, and no one person was immune from scrutiny.
Let’s hope that our new Mayor will model his behavior on the estimable Bill Hyer, rather than upon the somewhat less than estimable Haley Barbour.
Your Honor: fly economy and be grateful if you get an aisle seat.