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What Do You Think?

June 10, 2007

Editor's note: Each week, The Herald-Mail invites readers to answer poll questions on its Web site, www.herald-mail.com. Readers also may submit comments about the poll question when voting. Each Sunday, a sampling of edited reader comments will run in The Herald-Mail.

Last week's poll question was: Is it acceptable for elected officials to hold a holiday party on the taxpayers' dime?

"Holiday parties, if kept reasonable for employees, are not out of line considering the insane junkets many elected officials take."

"They should party on their own time with their own dimes."

"It is never acceptable for elected officials to pay for a holiday party with taxes. I say this even though I am aware of the Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall, which I believe is held by elected officials and paid for with taxes. There are other ways to fund parties without using taxes, but these other ways require more effort - a six-letter word."

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"No parties for city officials with my tax dollars ever. They find plenty of other ways to waste our money, but partying - no way."

"If it's done somewhere outside the office, on their own time and financed with only the taxpayer money that's disbursed in their salaries, I don't see a problem. Besides, why shouldn't they have holiday celebrations like other working people do? I certainly don't think they deserve more OF a party, but to have their own little shindig on their own shouldn't be a bone of contention with anyone."

"The issue is who these parties are thrown for. We're not talking about a little office Christmas party with eggnog and Secret Santas. The issue is parties for the largest campaign donors. The issue is campaign finance reform. To ensure democracy, this form of legalized bribery must be stopped. Our elected officials should be servants of the public, but they have become servants of the wealthiest donors. Bribery is a crime. It's time to start treating it like one."

"If it's for government employees, who should pay for it? You're not talking about a privately owned company or a business that sets aside money for such parties. If it was you working for the government, would you turn down a party?"

"Teachers have holiday parties, but we pay for it ourselves and it's always at private residences so as not to use the county's electricity."

"We pay our officials to run our government and represent our communities. Considering how poorly they do both, I do not think it acceptable, even if they were doing a great job, they should not be using taxpaying dollars for parties. Do you fellow Hagerstown people want to pay for their party and not even go? I sure don't."

"Yes and no. If the holiday parties will benefit the people, such as raising funds for charities, terminally ill kids, yes. But not for the sake of raising money for a political cause. Give the taxpayers a break."

"The best part about all this is even though 80 percent say it is never acceptable, it will probably continue to go on and Hagerstown will probably re-elect most of them anyway."

"Employers in the private sector often throw parties for their employees. However, private sector employment is very different from government employment. Taxpayers are not giving their money voluntarily to the government, whereas stockholders who bear the cost of corporate parties are investing their money by choice. If stockholders don't like paying the bill, they may sell their shares at any time. Taxpayers have no choice but to bite the bullet and keep on paying."

"Considering all of the tax and utility increases being put on citizens, I would say no. You will see in most companies that the holiday parties, bonuses and gift giving have been taken away or stopped. Our elected officials should follow suit."

"Many office or employee parties I have attended are pot luck. It is an opportunity for co-workers to spend a little social time together, not a gourmet extravaganza. If they are spending someone else's bucks, it will get out of hand. The most extravagant employee parties I have attended were very small companies of 10 or fewer employees where the employer is also a co-worker. These were places where if one person was planning a barbecue, everyone at work was likely to be there. The huge difference is, no one asked the general public to pay for it!"

"Government employees are not second-rate citizens. Simply because they receive their pay from taxes as such, doesn't mean they should not have the same perks as the rest of you. A party once or twice a year is not out of line in any way shape or form."

"Does it make any difference if it is local government or at the federal level? Gee, I wonder how many parties our state and federal governmental officials have attended, or boat trips, or air trips to all over the world, or dinner parties. Come on guys, this stuff happens all the time. Is it right, probably not, but it is a 'perk.' None of you have been treated to anything you did not pay for from your boss/vendor, etc?"

"Pay for your own parties. The corruption on local and national levels is sickening."

"What if the elected officials have the ability, in their budgets, to get reimbursed for gas, lodging, food, those things that are done in their official capacity, and they don't turn in those receipts to get reimbursed? If those funds are never used by those elected officials, what would be the harm in holding a Christmas celebration for their employees, instead of pocketing the money from the reimbursements? ... I believe that you would really be surprised if you saw what other elected officials spend of our hard-earned tax dollars, and on what."

"I wonder how many of you that are having a fit over the party would go if you were invited ... It's easy to sit back and say it's wrong ... but the majority of you wouldn't turn it down (the party)."

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