Government must serve and protect the public (Richard Gebelein & Robert Marshall)

Richard Gebelein is a former Delaware AG and Superior Court judge; Robert Marshall is a former Delaware state senator. This joint column was published in the News Journal.

We come from different political parties and have different views on many issues. We debated these issues over the years, often reaching compromise and being able to unite in support of positive change. Open process and thorough media coverage were a big plus. Now we see unprecedented challengers, but little public discussion. Legislative Hall in Dover “is closed to the public.”

Governor John Carney and one judge have determined that there must be a reassessment of property values for tax purposes, which will have serious tax and property value implications for everyone who owns a home or business property. There should be a public debate about the details, e.g., “how to conduct a reassessment, limit the size of tax increases, and/or seek alternative funding for schools.” So far this has not been happening.

Delaware spends plenty of money for schools, yet the results “do not seem to be great.” What about a public debate on the future of education in Delaware, including enhancing the role of vocational education and doing something about the “record numbers of ‘Lost Learners’ in our poverty Census Tracts.”

Further attention is needed for ensuring adequate oversight over the operation of long-term care and assisted living facilities. When a new director position was created, did it make sense to appoint an individual who had previously served as executive director and lobbyist for the Delaware Healthcare Facilities Association for 25 years? Was there any public input into this decision?

Steps have been taken to reduce the prison population during the pandemic, but on what basis, were the courts involved, and what was the public told about the matter?

Criminal justice reform may be a great idea, but iet's establish reports on how the reforms are working in practice? That’s how things were done when Delaware reformed the sentencing system in the 1980s. And in particular, let’s have some reporting about the steps taken to address the problems that gave rise to the Smyrna prison riot that resulted in the death of Lt. Steven Floyd.

What steps are being taken to assist nearly 100K unemployed Delawareans to find jobs? How will the state unemployment compensation system be able to cope after the federal funding is cut back? No doubt the state is making plans, but the details should be publicly discussed and it’s not happening.

No doubt there will be a push for higher taxes. There should be rigorous public debate, and it should be getting started now rather than at the last minute.

“We fear that because of the Covid-19 situation, because of the lack of investigative reporting, because of the influence of lobbyists, and because of the lack of challenges by an active minority party, extremely important decisions will be made by the government and the legislature with little input from the people who will be impacted by those decisions.”

If the Republican Party were playing a more active role, that would greatly mitigate the other concerns that are cited. Governments invariably atrophy over time without the spur of competition.
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