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Liberty Township Supervisor Walter Barlow

(9/2017) Some of our elected officials – including in my own area, Liberty Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania – argue that the greatest threat to our communities comes not from negligence or abuse of authority, but from "troublemakers" who speak out against misconduct by their representatives. The threat is most acute, they say, when the "troublemaker" is a fellow official, who uses his position to investigate and expose misbehavior by others in office.

There is a synonym for this kind of "troublemaker": a public servant. One who takes seriously his position as steward of the public trust. One who carries out with diligence and determination his responsibility to manage and maintain the public’s funds. One who ensures that all citizens – not only friends and political contributors – are treated fairly and equally. One who shines a light on government, regardless of what problems it may reveal.

We need more, not less, of these "troublemakers." Corruption – like cockroaches – thrives in darkness. Officials who operate behind closed doors, without public oversight or input, can and do adopt measures to benefit only themselves and their supporters, at the expense of the community.

Cockroaches scurry when someone turns on a light. "Troublemakers" turn on the light.

Shining a light on my own township – as I have done since becoming a supervisor – has certainly exposed some problems. Township meetings were routinely conducted in secret, in violation of Pennsylvania law, and measures were regularly adopted without any public deliberation or discussion. Permits and other benefits were granted to friends and supporters of township officials and denied to others. And tens of thousands of dollars of township funds – perhaps much more – were misspent or misappropriated (or outright embezzled) as a result of lax oversight and financial mismanagement over the course of years.

Abuses of this type, in my township and elsewhere, can be uncovered and prevented only if we join together to demand, loudly and consistently, that all government business be conducted in the open, for the benefit of the public as a whole. In other words, we must all be "troublemakers," willing to recognize and speak out against corruption and malfeasance and take action to address it – including at the ballot box. That is why I originally ran for my position as supervisor, and it is why I am running for reelection this November: to continue to be a "troublemaker," helping to ensure that our government serves us, not itself.

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