Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ombudsman - A concept that is missing from our public landscape in western PA -- for now.

OmbudsmanAn ombudsman is a government official charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individual citizens. The term arose from its use in Sweden, with the Parliamentary ombudsman instituted in 1809 to safeguard the rights of citizens by establishing a supervisory agency independent of the executive branch. The word ombudsman and its specific meaning has since been adopted in to English as well as other languages, and ombudsmen has been instituted by other governments and organizations such as the European Union.

We don't have any ombudsman. None in the school district. None in city government. None in the county. None in house or senate districts or even with state government. Zippo.

The recent matter when the citizens entered into the struggle to remove the WE-HAV program makes a perfect illustration for the need of an Ombudsman.

The citizens can mobalize, organize and defeat poor governmental programs. However, it is always a long-shot operation. It is painful for the champions of the cause. It makes for burn-out and hard-feelings among neighbors.

This call for the the creation of an ombudsman is a splendid way to give the citizens more leverage to control government officials and the process of self-government.

As a state senator, I will push for the creation of an ombudsman on various levels.

As a citizen of Allegheny County, I'm putting out a call for others to join in efforts to introduce the concept of an ombudsman to be injected into the county charter. First, we need to eliminate row offices. But soon after, we need to retool our offices and make an ombudsman part of our public landscape. We can put out an educational campaign that is matched with a petition and a ballot question before the county council or if necessary, with the voters.

No comments: