Our Opinion: Advisory council gives Wilsonians a say in state law

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Politicians hoard power for themselves and guard it jealously, while genuine leaders empower the people they represent. State Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield is showing Wilson County she belongs in the latter camp.

The ninth-term legislator will discuss North Carolina public policy with constituents on Saturday, and she’ll also invite them to join the Wilson County Citizens Legislative Advisory Council, a group of residents who will serve as a sounding board for Farmer-Butterfield on key issues affecting our communities.

“Let’s make each other accountable for what’s happening in our district,” Farmer-Butterfield said this week.

In assembling the advisory council, Farmer-Butterfield fulfills a campaign pledge she made while seeking re-election last year. Creating a panel of stakeholders to help craft policy and offer feedback is a terrific idea we wish more lawmakers — from city hall to the halls of Congress — would adopt.

Under our representative system of government, the people elect delegates to make decisions on their behalf. Voters choose those whose experience they value and whose priorities they share, but there’s no guarantee our representatives’ actions will always align with our preferences.

While lawmakers need some trust and autonomy to do their jobs, we favor as much direct democracy as possible. More issues should be put to public vote as referendums and ballot initiatives. Since the political machinery in North Carolina is unlikely to change anytime soon, a citizens’ council is the next best thing.

Farmer-Butterfield is a Democrat who’s been known to reach across the aisle and work toward compromise with Republican counterparts in the House. We expect she’d welcome Republicans as well as Democrats, unaffiliated voters and those who belong to third parties — our state now recognizes Lihertarians, Greens and Constitution Party members and tallies their voter registrations.

Wilsonians from all walks of life — young and old, men and women, liberals and conservatives, the underprivileged and the economically well-off — should seek membership on this advisory panel. We’d like to see a diverse group of people whose common thread is concern for their state and community and a desire to make a positive difference.

The advisory council won’t have veto power, but it can still be influential. Members may share concerns that have yet to land on Raleigh’s radar and find that their input can serve as the framework for state legislation.

Want to learn what’s ahead in the 2019 legislative session and find out more about the advisory council? Join Farmer-Butterfield from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday at the Wilson County Public Library’s assembly room. Because space is limited, attendees are asked to register online via the shortened link https://bit.ly/2BuHhGm or call 919-733-5898 to reserve a seat.

We applaud Farmer-Butterfield for forming a panel of constituents to study the issues and advise her on how to best represent Wilson County. We have high hopes for this legislative advisory council and encourage all county residents who want to work toward the betterment of our community to consider volunteering to serve.