Friday, May 15, 2020

The World Is Run By The People Who Show Up

     A lot of the most local forms of government in the U. S are amateurish.  It's done by people who have the spare time and/or ambition.

     They are not necessarily the best people.  Those folks have got real jobs, or moved up quickly. It's the ones who top out as Assistant Zoning Director and so on who stick around and shovel paperwork. I am okay with this.

     My very first big time fancy media job was videotaping School Board and City Council meetings in a county-seat town of about 45,000.  The tapes were played back on the local cable TV system the next day. Most of the politicians were sincere, and so were the people who showed up to make public comments.  The meetings often hovered on the verge of chaos, and yet somehow never tumbled in.  The office-holders and plain citizens were not always the cleverest -- but here's the thing: there are a lot more people at the middle of the curve than out at the ends.  They have to live here.  Like it or not, C students are the glue that holds the whole thing together.

     Working in Indianapolis, I have had plenty of occasions to see the meetings of the City-County Council and various zoning and regulatory boards.  The furniture is nice, the issues are larger, and the city's own Cable TV channel does a far better job covering them than I ever did with a single black-and-white TV camera and an early videocassette recorder, but the way it all runs and the people in the audience and at the nice desks aren't any different.  Oh, sometimes a rising star shows up and holds a seat for a few years, but they're soon up and out to state or national office.  The C students, the average people, they're the ones who show up every day and do the grindingly dull work that keeps the city running.

     People sometimes complain about how badly things are run -- slow, awkward, inconvenient.  But it could be so very much worse (and so very much more invasive), and yet it rarely is.

     Still, this is why government should be no bigger than the bare minimum; there's plenty to do even then.  It's also why government should not be "made more efficient."  Fast, efficient operations need highly-skilled operators.  That's not what we elect and hire; that's not what we can elect and hire.

    Sure, we can do better.  We should aspire to do better.  And city governments can be the most preposterously nit-picky meddlers imaginable -- but it would be so much worse without the people who show up and do the work.  They don't always do it as well as it could be done, or as quickly, or even as well as they should.  A few are outright crooks.  But most of them honestly dig in and get it done, for low pay and and endless stream of complaints.  If you could do it better, run for office!

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