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New Beginnings, Old Challenges…

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Wow! Usually, I begin this column with more glamorous wording, but the word “wow” seems quite appropriate. With the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president and Delaware’s first vice president (despite the overplayed references to Joe, the scruffy little boy from Scranton) a little over two months away, change is emerging in all corridors of our government.

Governor-elect Jack Markell is preparing to transition into the governor’s mansion and implement his robust agenda, “Blueprint for a Better Delaware”. Lieutenant Governor John Carney, seemingly unemployed after a hard-fought primary, is hoping that his path will allow him to capture a vacant U.S. Senate seat—potentially serving as the next example of making lemonade out of a lemon.

New Castle County Executive Chris Coons and County Council President Paul Clark, both facing difficult odds, weathered the county’s economic storm to win their Democratic primaries by sizeable margins then coasted through the November elections with no Republican opposition.

Wilmington Mayor James Baker and newly elected City Council President Norman Griffiths prepare to begin a new era of city politics without Ted Blunt and Theo Gregory.

The Republican statewide ticket of former Judge Bill Lee and former state Senator Charlie Copeland is grappling with redefining a GOP in a post-Bush era.

Democrats have taken over the state House by a wide margin and strengthened their control of the state Senate and many defeated Republican officeholders are looking for the proverbial scapegoat.

In short, Obama, Biden, Carper, Markell, Democrats and the words “change” and “transition” are hot; Bush, Cheney, Lee, Republicans (other than one named Castle), the economy, and the phrase  “compassionate conservatism” are not; Carney and Castle are lukewarm. It has been an incredible historic ride for the First State and all this before Delawareans take time to cut the family turkey and open holiday presents.  

Clearly, our nation and state are witnessing the dawn of a new chapter in political governance. However, as Uncle Ben reminded Peter Parker in Marvel’s “Spiderman,” “With great power comes great responsibility.” Facing a recession, a projected $300 million revenue shortfall, failing transportation and infrastructure and a demanding voting public, the phrase, “great responsibility,” appears to be an understatement for our lawmakers. Nevertheless, if our founding fathers were able to defeat a great empire, write a constitution, unify diverse and competing colonies and avoid financial calamity without the benefit of calculators, computers, an established banking system and the World Wide Web, it seems logical that our lawmakers can address our current plight to address these old challenges.

Three quick tips for lawmakers seeking to guide our state through these troubled times.

First, while inauguration is a time for celebration and exuberance, we must begin developing a framework to address the most important problems facing our state. As many lawmakers are trying to determine whether they will receive a much-coveted ticket to one of the many Presidential inaugural balls, I remind each of you that many Delawareans are spending their energy trying to find a much-coveted job with reliable healthcare. In the euphoria of the moment, it is easy to become distracted and lose focus on your job description. Yes, enjoy the moment, but remember the lives of many Delawareans depend on your decisions.  

Second, read Governor-elect Markell’s “Blueprint for a Better Delaware.” It is unbelievable how many lawmakers have not read our future Governor’s plan. One would assume reading this plan would take precedence over shopping for an inaugural dress or tuxedo—maybe I’m just a nerd. Whenever a high-level elected official provides a written instrument setting forth their ideas and proposals, it is the duty of those elected to serve the people to read those proposals.  Trust me, if more people had read Mein Kampf prior to the ascension of Adolf Hitler, the world probably could have avoided a painful and deadly chapter in its history. Being an elected official is not just attending events, shaking hands and speaking from the hip on important issues; it requires careful reading and analysis of proposed policies to provide the highest level of support to the people of a given state.

Finally, as you drive to work, be mindful of the expression “easy come, easy go.” While my fellow Democrats have been vested with significant power and responsibility by the people of the State of Delaware to solve our current problems, we are not immune to the forces that resulted in our victory on election night. Failure to address the current challenges could ultimately result in a Republican landslide in 2010. Two legislative sessions in two years…the clock is now ticking.

As Delawareans approach the beginning of this historic era, bound only by the limits of our spirit and mind, let us remember the circumstances that have brought this divided nation together and make a commitment to never again allow our house to stand divided.  

After all, common sense must prevail.

 

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