Our nation’s founding fathers got it right when they set the bedrock for our nation’s government in the U.S. Constitution: A clear purpose and division of the executive, legislative and judicial branches was pure brilliance.
And so was requiring the head of the executive branch — the president — to give a report on the nation’s state of affairs. The formal basis for the annual State of the Union address is found in Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 in the Constitution.
It states: “The President shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
George Washington gave the first State of the Union to Congress on Jan. 8, 1790, according to the U.S. House of Representatives. It was formally known as the “Annual Message” from 1790 to 1946, and was presented in written form from 1801 to 1912. It was informally called the “State of the Union” from 1942 to 1946 and officially earned the name in 1947.
During the 1800s the annual message was mostly a department and economic report. But in 1913 that emphasis began to change after President Woodrow Wilson revived presenting the message in person to Congress. Over time, presidents began to use the forum to push their platforms and speak to the American people. Radio, TV and the internet helped to further develop that forum.
State of the Unions are important to our democracy. Whatever a president deems as “necessary and expedient” can reveal how well they’re doing their job. It also opens their administration to public and media scrutiny. Sometimes, what a president doesn’t say can reveal even more.
All of which is why we applaud the mayors of Tooele and Grantsville cities for giving their own annual “State of the City” addresses. As reported in last Thursday’s edition, Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn and Grantsville City Mayor Brent Marshall gave their speeches on Wednesday night at their respective City Halls.
Every year we highlight each mayor’s speech on the front page and also publish the full text of each speech inside. We do so because they help to keep citizens informed about projects and services at each city, and what goals may lie ahead. They also help to compel government transparency.
With such benefits in mind, Tooele County government is urged to make similar annual presentations starting next year. In January 2021, the County will switch from its current 3-member commission form of government to an elected, 5-member part-time county council with a hired, full-time executive manager.
The current 3-member form of government has both executive and legislative powers. But starting next January, the 5-member council will have legislative powers while the hired manager will have executive powers at the behest of the council.
A yearly “State of the County” address by the new manager and/or county council can help keep citizens informed, compel transparency and inspire accountability. The council and manager can then get “it right” while setting the bedrock for a new form of Tooele County government.