as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Thursday, January 28, 2016
By TOM HENRY
“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made,” Otto von Bismarck.
I unreservedly advise any person desirous of public office, particularly a position on the city council, to first sit through all budget hearings before deciding to run. Your eyes WILL be opened!
I have often heard that if you want to know where a person’s heart truly lies, take a look at their checkbook. They invest in what is most important to them. I believe that can also be said of a city.
You can look at where a city spends its money or where it invests in future development and see where they are going, who is most important to the city leaders and where their city’s heart is at that time.
Not only can the budget process be extremely ugly and SLOW, but it can also be somewhat encouraging. Encouraging, because it proves that no one person or clique holds total power in Blytheville. If everyone is equally offended, we might be heading down the right track, because true governing is the “art of compromise” and prioritizing.
Honestly, I am highly offended by some of the priorities that were cut out. I am also even more offended by some of the childish tactics, rants, pouts, disruptions, name callings, and redirections deployed along the way. So, with the process nearly completed, what lessons can be learned? Me, being the extremely modest, humble, timid and not at all sarcastic guy that I am, offer but a few.
The biggest lesson that can be learned is best taught by the movie The Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
If you don’t have thick enough skin to be disagreed with, evaluated, corrected or debated…then by all means stay out of government. Every city employee, elected or hired, is accountable to his/her bosses and their bosses are the taxpayers of Blytheville.
I have been amazed at how offended and personal the issues have become. While I am certainly NOT a supporter of making all decisions based upon the “collective good,” as though I am a socialist or something, I am however fully aware that our elected officials are not little kings…they are stewards. As such, they have to evaluate cost benefit analysis with each of their appropriations.
The second lesson is that “facts don’t lie, even when the rhetoric does.”
It matters not how passionate one is or how well versed they are in their rhetoric. Problems are problems and shortfalls are shortfalls and they are abundantly clear to those that are informed and educated. Believe it or not, not everything revolves around race. When people do not have facts on their side, it is a common debating tactic to reframe the argument. That has been done with the race card during this process, of course in my humble opinion.
The next lesson is that good ideas are good ideas regardless of who proposes them. Factionalism is rampant in the republican form of government, especially in Blytheville. I have been amazed at how many good ideas have been proposed from people that in past issues I have vehemently disagreed with. Though I disagree with the political philosophies of some, they have more than once surprised me with good ideas.
Next, “kicking the can down the road very seldom makes the problem disappear.”
I have witnessed council members stretch out some of these meetings, apparently, because they simply did not want to make the tough, yet obvious decision required of them. Elected officials, you were elected to make the difficult decisions. Do what is right no matter what the consequences. Don’t concentrate on how the public views your actions…simply do the right thing and sleep well at night.
Beware of setting precedent. Just because you believe the administration in place today is trustworthy or favorable to your politics, forget not that some future administration may be as corrupt as vipers and may use the very tools you create today to force policies you hate down your throat tomorrow.
Needs are far more important than wants, but have far less advocates. Special interest groups will lobby at the top of their lungs for their “pet project,” making so much noise that the uninformed might believe the whole world is in an uproar about it; but they are not. At the same time, residents just assume that our elected officials are competent enough to always take are of issues such as public safety; sometimes this is not true either. You can’t please everyone, all the time and you shouldn’t even set that as a goal.
Lastly, never underestimate the value of competence. Voters, take an honest evaluation of the competency and performance of your two city councilmen. Stop voting for people just because of their demographics or out of loyalty to a group. If they are not up to the job, stop voting for them. Please!
Overall, I am certainly glad to see that the 2016 city budget is just days away from being finalized. There are parts I am very displeased with, but I am pleased that we are close to having a finished budget.