The 20th president of the United States, Rev. James A. Garfield challenged every citizen with this statement: "The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure it is because the people demand these high qualities." Fellow Americans, fellow Utahns -- we are guilty as charged.
I look at some of the outrage that has surfaced in just the last year and have to admit that we the people are guilty of tolerating the very things we whimper about. Earlier this year we had about 10 days of public whimpering about the salary of the Utah Transit Authority CEO, John Inglish. According to the Deseret News, last year, UTA General Manager John Inglish earned $348,929 in salary, bonuses and transportation allowances. That's more than public transportation executives in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and Phoenix -- all cities with larger populations, and in some places, millions more riders each year and more complex bus, train and van systems. Even Governor Herbert said he was "shocked" at the amount of money.
Yet, it faded into the sunset within a matter of days. So while our "Public Servants" are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, there is a man in a wheelchair who has to pay a fee hike in ticket prices to ride this outstanding public transportation system.
But you know what, I didn't pick up my phone and call my legislator. I didn't write a letter to the governor. I didn't hold people accountable because I am too busy. I am probably a lot like you in my comfortable home, unreliant on public transportation unless I choose to take the Frontrunner for entertainment purposes.
We all have a tendency to care less about something that doesn't impact our daily lives in some tangible way. Therefore if we receive a $10.00 ticket for parking our car on the street during a snow storm we are furious. Why? Because it's tangible and affects us right then. Meanwhile we tune out the most outrageous violations because we have a false sense of security in this country. This allows us to continue in our comfortable lives while simultaneously being taken advantage of.
In the case of John Inglish the most credible argument for his salary is that we must pay for good talent. This argument also includes that if we don't pay for it he will leave and go elsewhere to make more money. I believe this true in the private sector which is based on capitalism. However, I have one major objection to this line of thinking. Thousands of people, both in the history of the United States, and currently, choose to work in a "public service" or non-profit organization. We understand that we could make more money in the private sector, but we gain our identity and satisfaction from serving others. This doesn't mean we have to work for free, but we do choose to work for less. This nullifies the only argument available for such outlandish pay for public officials.
In reflecting, I will be picking up my phone and letting my governor, representative and senator know that I expect a review of any agency charged with public services. They should be holding those in authority accountable. Without a large number of citizen making these phone calls and communications little will be done. But together, the collective voice of the people will always prevail. But we must have the stamina to follow through for the long haul.
You and I are to blame for the ignorance, recklessness and corruption that our nation, our state and our cities face today. We are guilty as charged by President, James A. Garfield. The question is will you take his challenge and demand these high qualities from our public servants. To find your legislator, go to www.vote.utah.gov
Crowder is music and media pastor and director of facilities at the Christian Life Center and Layton Christian Academy.