Radio Address: Deschambault says respect, transparency are key to public’s trust in government

Posted: May 13, 2016 | Senator Deschambault, Weekly Radio Address

You know, in my four decades of work for the Department of Corrections, I always treated prisoners fairly. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew that as a state employee, it was important that I hold myself to a high standard.

Hi, this is Senator Susan Deschambault, from Biddeford.

I was a social worker in Maine’s prisons for 43 years.  I dealt with all kinds of inmates and let’s face it – they weren’t in prison because they were the nicest people.  You had to be tough and sure of yourself to do that type of work and be effective.  You had to be ‘firm and fair’ and a straight shooter.

But you also had to be respectful and transparent.  All Maine people, even incarcerated offenders, deserve that kind of good “customer service” from their government and from its employees.  And you know what? The way I treated them paid off because in the end, they respected me too.

I don’t think these two things — being tough and being respectful — are opposites. I don’t think you have to choose between one or the other. All of us, but especially public officials, should be both.

So I don’t hold it against the governor that he’s a little rough around the edges. I grew up in Biddeford, in the same kind of community that he did, so I get it.

But since I became a state senator in March, I’ve been a little surprised to see that lack of respect for the public from lots of government officials in Augusta.

A few weeks ago, lawmakers and other people were locked out of a meeting in the governor’s mansion — even though the meeting was required by law to be open to the public.

Another example came in a newspaper report this week. It showed a state agency dragging its feet with requests for information from the public.

But the most surprising thing was when I contacted a state commissioner to discuss a problem one of my constituents had. I was informed the Governor had forbidden his commissioners from working directly with legislators. So I guess my constituent was out of luck.

These examples show a lack of transparency and respect in state government that I think is really unfortunate for the people of Maine, who we’re all supposed to serve.

I’m not trying to start a big political fight. I just think showing respect while doing your job can go a long way. And if I could manage to treat those sentenced to prison with respect, government officials should be able to do the same thing for regular Maine people. After all, we’re duly elected, or appointed, to serve the public.

This is Senator Susan Deschambault. Thanks for listening, and have a great summer.