Government should work

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Nearly seven years ago, when Lora Abernathy was the editor of the Wilmington News Journal, I got frustrated and wrote a letter to the editor.

It was my first year as mayor of Wilmington and there were some things happening that I really didn’t like. So, I wrote about it.

A few weeks later, Lora called to ask me if I would consider writing a weekly column for the newspaper. I was hesitant and told her I really wasn’t interested in writing a weekly column about politics. I imagined that being the mayor and writing a weekly column about politics would get old.

Lora said, “No. I enjoyed your writing style. You can write about anything you like. Write about your dog if you want to.”

Well, when I started college in 1968, my major was journalism. I figured I might enjoy producing a weekly column, so I agreed. Since then, I’ve written about my dog and many other things, but not too much about politics.

However, for the past several weeks I’ve been really frustrated about what’s happening (or not happening) in Washington, D.C. So, today I’m going to vent about politics.

Our elected officials in Washington should be ashamed. Regardless of whether a person’s job is making something or doing something, getting the job done is of fundamental importance. Congress and the administration cannot be doing their jobs when the federal government is allowed to shut down.

The synonym for congressman is “lawmaker.” The “making something” Congress should be making would be the laws and rules that keep our government open. The “doing something” that Congress should be doing is providing governmental services and protections for all of us.

Many federal employees are still working but are not getting paid. That’s disgraceful. Anyone who is working for the government should be getting paid.

It’s time to get the government working again.

The White House has stated over and over that we need a wall, or some type of heavy-duty fence, along the border with Mexico. Frequently, we have heard from administration spokespeople that border security is of the greatest importance to President Trump.

President Trump has promised and is insisting on building a 1,000-mile-long wall at our southern border with Mexico. He has refused to negotiate about anything less than that. So, the argument appears to be over about 1,000 miles of border with Mexico, but what about the other 19,000 miles of U.S. border?

Over 800,000 government employees are currently on furlough from their jobs or they are working without pay — 200,000 of those people work for the Department of Homeland Security. Many vital agencies that protect us and our borders work for the DHS, including the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation and Safety Administration,

Many of the employees of the Department of Homeland Security are still on the job out of a sense of loyalty, but they are not getting paid. It is admirable that they are willing to work for free, but it is disgraceful that our government is willing to take advantage of their patriotism and sense of responsibility.

The worst terror attack we ever suffered had nothing to do with our border with Mexico. On 9/11, 19 people boarded four different aircraft in Boston and killed about 3,000 Americans. At that time, TSA didn’t even exist.

Today, the TSA provides security for over 43,000 fights and 2.6 million passengers daily. They are not getting paid. So, basically, our airports are now being protected by volunteers. That’s a disgrace.

We have over 12,000 miles of coastline that are supposed to be protected by the U.S. Coast Guard. That doesn’t even include the inland waterways, rivers and lakes that are monitored and protected by the Coast Guard. All Coast Guard employees work for DHS. They are not getting paid. That’s disgraceful.

Maybe we need a new law.

If the government is truly allowed to shut down, then no one should get paid. Members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and everyone working in administration should not be receiving a paycheck. Maybe our lawmakers would be a bit more willing to negotiate if that happened.

The fighting needs to stop. Open and honest negotiations need to begin. Both sides want something out of this situation. So, sit down like adults and talk with each other until a solution is negotiated.

This is embarrassing.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist