Editorial: The ultimate checks and balances | TribLIVE.com

Editorial: The ultimate checks and balances


We have to hold our government accountable.

But we have to do the same to ourselves.

On Wednesday, Allegheny County Council held a hearing about an ordinance that would create an independent police review board.

Independent observation and supervision of government is a good thing. It is the kind of checks and balances that the U.S. Constitution set up. We trust Congress to make our laws, but not to execute them and not to decide whether they are legal. We trust the president to carry things out, but not to decide what the laws are or whether he is breaking them. We trust the courts to interpret the laws but not create or enforce them.

So an official body set up to weigh the actions and decisions of another government body? It’s a good idea, and not a new one.

But residents shouldn’t act like there has been no opportunity to participate in any kind of oversight until now.

“Someone has to give the residents in Allegheny County a voice,” Michelle Kenney said at the hearing. “They have to have somewhere to go whenever things go wrong with their local police department.”

It is not surprising that Kenney — the mother of Antwon Rose II, 17, who was shot and killed in a confrontation with former East Pitttsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld — would feel that way. She has every right. And she isn’t wrong.

The problem is that too often, the solution to a lack of accountability with government is not holding government accountable. It’s creating another board or council or authority that will do that for us.

If people want government to be responsive, people have to be present to demand a response.

If people want government to be transparent, people have to be present to demand to see what is being obscured.

If people want government to be answerable, to be accountable, to act like someone is looking over its shoulder, people have to make it known that they will be there, demanding the answers and asking to see the accounts.

The people are the ultimate review board, and they can’t forget their own role in the process. Show up at meetings, even if you don’t have a topic on the agenda. Know your rights and your responsibilities. Ask questions and persist in getting answers. Be involved and informed and make your voice heard.

Because the ultimate check to keep things in balance isn’t another branch of government. It’s the people that make up the roots.

Categories: Opinion | Editorials
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