Govern by principles
Most of us on occasion have to scratch our heads and wonder how elected officials actually accomplish anything of worth. They struggle over the simplest of matters and get mired down in the tiniest of details, while losing sight of the bigger picture or the global view on issues.
This occurs on the federal, state, county and local level, and no one group has a corner on that market. Even our local organizations and clubs seem to have the same challenges as they deal with issues before them.
Governing, no matter on what level, takes an extreme amount of patience, in addition to an open mind and the ability to listen, rather than speak.
Unfortunately, throughout the country we seem to have a more “top down” system of governance, where our leaders fail to listen or come together for a consensus that favors the good of all. The answers for many of our challenges and issues don’t necessarily come from those that govern, but instead from those that are being governed, as they make up a pretty good reservoir of knowledge and more importantly, common sense.
I believe it was then-Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil who coined the phrase, “It’s much easier to run for office than to run the office.” Many of our elected officials on all levels of government have found those words to ring all too true in their ears.
The reality of holding office is to understand that you have been elected to do all the peoples’ business, and to do it fairly and objectively. The only way to do that is to be educated on the issues that present themselves and to once again listen more than you speak.
Having principals and abiding by them is as important as being practical. Most savvy men and women who serve in office come to understand that early on in their lives. Ronald Reagan quickly came to understand that when he said, “That is the sound of the cement breaking around my feet,” when he came to realize just how bad the economy was in California after taking office as governor. He would later go on to utilize those great skills and knowledge as the 40th president.
Our local council could learn much from both these individuals who served in elective office with pride and distinction. We must work toward a more collegial atmosphere, one in which we concentrate on the issue and not the individual or the personalities.
Taking 4-8 weeks for a council member be able to have a legitimate discussion and potential action on an item goes against the rules and procedure as adopted by the city. We need to expedite the business before council to ensure the public good is best served, rather than use procedure to stall progress.
When an item comes before council for action, we should follow the rules and procedures as written; have staff give an overview of the item and then open the public hearing before council debates the issue. The whole idea of providing a public hearing is so the elected body can hear from their constituents about their feelings, rather than listen to 60 minutes of debate between those sitting on the dais, who by then already have their minds made up.
I remember when the issue of putting cameras in a courtroom came under so much debate. Some worried they would provide a distraction to the proceedings. Some might even say the same about legislative proceedings.
Televising these proceedings is a good change and provides the general public with more access to the legislative process; playing to the cameras and special interests is not. This holds true at all levels of our governing bodies and requires a steady but fair hand to guide meetings to accomplish the primary goal of fairly and efficiently governing for the good of all.
I can only hope, even in the politically charged atmosphere of an election year, that we will not let private agendas drive the process, and instead deal objectively with those important challenges that will face.