Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Meaning of Public Service

Earlier this week, we were discussing the ongoing plague of sexism in our society and our politics. Even now, some are still trying to justify misogyny as "morality", "art", "conviction", "fun", or something else. And it's having a strong influence on the major policy fights of our time.

This past spring, Assembly Member Lucy Flores (D-North Las Vegas) had to confront this head on. After she testified on comprehensive sex-ed legislation and shared her personal experience on the matter, she was confronted with horrific death threats and disgusting "slut shaming" from the state’s largest "newspaper" and its 21st Century Know Nothing allies. Despite these personal attacks, Assembly Member Flores continued to speak out and aid efforts to pass the sex-ed bill. The bill (AB 230) ultimately passed the Assembly, but died a rather mysterious death in the State Senate.

Yet since that fight, Lucy Flores has gained an even higher profile than the one she had before the 77th session (and that was already pretty high). In fact, it's now so high that there's a grassroots #WhyNotLucy campaign to draft #FierceFlores to run for Lieutenant Governor next year. Now talk about a meteoric rise...

And colossal fall? Early on, Lucy Flores looked like a potential frontrunner as enthusiasm was building for a possible statewide run. However, a major plot twist emerged this week. On Wednesday, Jon Ralston reported on whispers from prominent political power players that indicated growing buzz for Susie Lee.

And who is Susie Lee?

Lee is a longtime ally of state Board of Education member Elaine Wynn, and this flattering profile of her role in Communities in School shows her commitment on a key issue for voters. As one key insider put it: "Susie is smart, effective, aggressive. A longtime Nevadan.  Brings a unique set of skills to the position and to the campaign - is someone who can get things done. An education champion - long pushing an agenda of equal opportunity for quality education. Ties to gaming so understands value/role of Tourism to this economy. And has demonstrated a commitment to this community."

Oh, and her ability to self-finance.....

Susie Lee is close to Elaine Wynn, so Susie Lee is automatically assumed to have "the inside track" for winning statewide office. That's because Ms. Wynn has all the right "juice" with all the right people. Oh, and of course, she's a billionaire who served on the board of one of the state's top gaming companies.

Now don't get me wrong, Elaine Wynn has done many good things with her money. She has often given back to the community. And her politics (thankfully) doesn't match up with her ex-husband's.

Yet with that being said, Ms. Wynn has very strong ties to the school privatization "reform" campaign. We've discussed before the fallacy behind the promise of "school reform". And far too many in Southern Nevada have had to learn this the hard way.

Perhaps Susie Lee will offer something different. After all she's running, not Elaine Wynn. But then again, Lee's well connected allies seem be promoting her by talking up her ties to Wynn. And until Susie Lee articulates her own policy platform, we won't know for sure if her plan is really all that different from Wynn's.

Lucy Flores, however, already has a record. She's already been tested in campaigns. And she clearly knows how to fight back when opponents attack.

Fortunately for everyone involved, sexism isn't the issue this time (at least for now). Both prospective Democratic Lt. Gubernatorial candidates are women, and that in and of itself says something. Now, it's a matter of who, what, and why these candidates stand for. Public office is supposed to be about public service. And as we learn more about these candidates and all the other candidates announcing for the 2014 cycle, we need to ask them all if they truly understand the meaning of public service.

All too often, it's easy to forget this as we experience the day-to-day hurly burly of contemporary American politics. Who's up? Who's down? Who has the most "juice"? Who has the most money? Who has the party bosses? And who has the inside track?

How about who has the best vision for this state's future? Who has articulated smart policy proposals? And who truly wants to demonstrate good public service? These are the kinds of merits we need to see more in Carson City.

So far, Lucy Flores shows promise in this regard. And maybe Susie Lee will be able to prove she's more than just "juiced up". We just have to keep in mind the meaning of public service as we're about to choose new public servants.

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