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When Trust Takes A Vacation

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We are fortunate to live in a democratic republic where free speech is guaranteed. Anyone can raise any question or make any comment about what government officials do or neglect to do, what they say or what they fail to say. A little skepticism is useful. Albert Einstein is said to have remarked: “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

Skepticism is one thing. Distrust as a political philosophy, however, is another. What are we to make of growing distrust between some citizens and the people they elect – even when demonstrable progress is being made?

We are told that there is not enough to go around so we must conserve what we have. Prudent use of taxpayer dollars is a must in any government, however, much of the criticism of how governments spend or will in the future spend money is often more the result of scarcity thinking than hard evidence of fiduciary irresponsibility as the norm. Scarcity mentality is a path to the slow and excruciating death of a community. It crops up in every era and eventually collapses for want of supporting evidence.

The people whom governments serve may from time to time be indeed be stretched financially if improvements in public services and infrastructure are to occur regularly. That does not preclude citizens – even those financially challenged – from making sacrifices today that have the potential to benefit generations to come. Ironically it is the very poor who, when the need is clear, are among the most generous, while some indifferent or apathetic members of the economic middle class seem to scream the loudest when asked to give their fair share. They find it easier to publicly chip away at good faith efforts than to chip in with substantial commitment.

Just as dangerous is the notion that the competent neighbors whom the governed elect are incapable or unwilling to be wise stewards of tax dollars. We forget that before elected officials were elected, they were persons who lived next door, shopped in the community, and volunteered to coach the kid’s soccer team. Following elections they are still our neighbors. Political office does not poison their ability to use common sense or to make reasonably good choices.

Unless every taxpayer desires to become an expert in the operation of a municipality, county, state or federal government in the 21st Century they must either elect good leaders and trust them enough to let them work or accept councils and congresses that accomplish little and slow progress at great taxpayer expense.

Earned faith, a hopeful public and a courageous press have historically made for more good government than a highly cautious, distrusting public ever has.

Fortunately for us in Cameron, trust is earned locally and no elected official wants to lose it by ignoring tax payers’ credible challenges to assumptions behind ordinances or resolutions. We manage to agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable and to continue to seek every opportunity to work together. Rather than trust taking a vacation, it seems to work long hours and even a little overtime in this city.

Why the Best Forms of Democracy Might Be More Local

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Why Mayors Should Rule the World (Name of a TED talk – click here to see)

During a recent conversation with a Gen X’er I heard the familiar complaints about “that” political party and “those people” and how the government is wasteful and enabling of slackers, etc. What I never heard was a single word about what he intended to do to make it better.

To be fair, it would be difficult to do. Members of Congress each represent 500,000 constituents and Senators serve millions in most of their states. How does one make their voice count?

My truth is that most effective political action is local. We live in a certain community, know many of the leaders – some by first names. Hopefully we enjoy good reputations and access to city and county officials is fairly easy and inexpensive. One does not have to be a corporate lobbyist to get a hearing from a city council member or alderman – particularly to address a local concern or to share an idea to improve local life.

Instead of focusing so much energy and verbiage on what Washington cannot do, how about more of us consider what we can do locally. If 50% of every local community were to be positively engaged in helping their cities and towns to work for all of its citizens, the ripple effects would be unimaginably transformative of our national “can’t or won’t do” depression.

What’s your thought?