Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hard Choices

Eleven unpaid furlough days for City of New Orleans workers. New NOPD restructuring and overtime controls. A 10% pay cut for the mayor and his staff.

Sound familiar? Just like so many cities and states, and even the nation itself, New Orleans' government was spending too much money with too little result, but the bills still come due.

And what was that money being spent on?

“The city of New Orleans has been living beyond her means, and the city has not even made good on delivering the services that it was budgeted to deliver,”

Years ago, I said that every major problem we face as a United States is a problem both present and exaggerated in New Orleans. I don't think I can make a clearer case than that statement right there. We pay taxes, the government spends more tax dollars than are available for exactly zero return on investment.

On the local level, this means New Orleans' roads are full of potholes, we have the highest murder rate in the nation and our schools are falling apart. On the national level this means we build crappy levees, have no regulation of the oil industry or Wall Street, and have been engaged in armed conflict with two fourth-rate powers for years without winning (Afganistan 2002, Iraq 1991).

The Mayor continued:

“We are living in tough times, and we are living in tough times because other folks made bad decisions and we have to correct all of those things.”

How many times will we have to hear these words? Because those "other folks" were fairly elected officials, too. And by elected, I mean that a majority of the voting population put them there in the course of free and fair elections.

That is the one overwhelming similarity between the local, state and national governments over the past decade that now have us looking at our ledgers now with despair - We the People elected them all.

I will say this until I die: Voting is the absolute least you can do to change things. If you don't like the way things are, get involved and stay involved. The governments that affect your life the most are your local and state governments, where your earnestly participating voice is the loudest; where you can affect the most change.

I also guarantee that if you are a Yellow Dog Democrat or a Dyed-In-The-Wool Republican, and you get involved with your local party or candidates, you will realize that the other side is not the problem you think it is.

You don't have to wait on a President or a Party to deliver Hope and Change to you when you can go out and make it for yourself. And as much fun as it is to pretend you are part of some Republic-saving revolution, it is the more mature course of action to attend boring civic meetings*.

* - They don't have to be boring if you bring friends and start changing civic culture for the better.


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