EDITORIAL: City, county government mirrors Washington D.C.

As the United States Congress faces yet another fiscal crisis of its own making, citizens are left wondering why the people they put in office spend more time fighting than legislating.

Local politics is not much different.

More often than not it appears the people we put in office are more concerned about winning an argument than passing good policy that will have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Most citizens are not really far to the left or really far to the right.

In fact, there seems to be a total disconnect between what matters most to ordinary citizens and what seems to matter to legislators.

The so-called sequester, or automatic federal budget cuts, will take effect Friday, unless there is yet another dramatic ninth-hour deal.

More than $1 trillion in spending reductions will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the lives of many — if not most — Americans.

In Washington, finger pointing has taken the place of negotiating.

However the same thing, on a smaller scale, happens in our city and county government on a weekly basis.

Whether at the federal, state or local level, posturing, grandstanding and pandering to a voter base is not effective representation or responsible legislation.

Arguing from the extreme is rarely effective.

In Washington, the sequestration has come down to a tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives, once again.

Most Americans are not concerned about whether Democrats or Republicans win the fight.

What they are concerned about are their paychecks, their tax bills, their jobs and the prices they pay for goods and services.

Our county commissioners, members of our boards of education and city councils, our state representatives, our state senators, our U.S. representatives and U.S. senators should always put people above politics.

That rarely happens.

Whether on our local county commission or in the U.S. Congress, when split votes are consistently the same, regardless of the issue, it is increasingly apparent that those we elected to represent us are not voting for our interests, but rather out of political loyalty or personal agenda.

Citizens feel disenfranchised when they go to county commission or city council meetings and it appears the meeting itself is little more than a formality and every member knew how they were going to vote on every issue before they ever got to the meeting, based on their political alliances.

In that way, our local governmental bodies can be just like Washington D.C.

Imagine going to a meeting and hearing officials make compelling arguments, have candid dialogue and actually convince one another in an open, public meeting of passing a piece of legislation that directly impacts the lives of citizens in a positive way — all right, perhaps that is a little too much fantasy for one editorial.

The truth is not always in the middle between two extremes, but good public policy can often be found there.

Both in Washington, and here at home, our elected leaders always seem to argue every issue from polar ends and then try and move toward the middle to find common ground.

The problem, more often than not, is that neither side wants to move very far from their polarized views.

Elected officials would be far more effective if they started debate in areas where they can find agreement, then gravitated outward toward their respective ideologies, until they can no longer find agreement. At that point, they would know exactly where consensus can be found, compromise can be reached and gridlock can give way to effective legislation.

— Editor Jim Zachary