Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dysfunctional government

Evan Bayh quit the Senate because he considers our government dysfunctional. That’s a conclusion most of us reached a long time ago. Dysfunction is endemic at the state level, too. John Kitzhaber famously said that Oregon is “ungovernable.” He still wants to take another shot at it though...

On the local level, things seem to be functioning pretty well at the City of Sisters. They are certainly getting some work done on the public works front and the financial house is in order. The city has approved a Transportation System Plan and a housing plan, both a long, long time in the works.

Now, they need to get the elements of those plans underway. THAT would be a truly functional government.

I still think the city needs to convince us that a gas tax is necessary before the March vote. Maybe next week...

The recent public hearing on the development code is a heartening display of democracy in action. Those with skin in the game have offered up some incisive criticism of the code and the planning commission and planning staff seem to be paying attention.

Planners walk a fine line with codes. Too tight and they run the risk of scaring off potential businesses and residents. Too loose and they risk erosion of the quality of environment that attracts businesses and residents to a backwater like Sisters.
The public cry is for “flexibility” in the code. That’s all well and good — we all want decisions governed by common sense. But flexibility always runs the risk of creating a climate for arbitrary decisions and an arbitrary government is a dangerous government.

Like I said, a balancing act — and it ain’t as easy as it looks.

Things look pretty dysfunctional right now in the school district — at least at the governance level. The school board wants to prioritize student achievement, but they are going to be bogged down for months in a superintendent search (yes, I understand that a good superintendent is vital to student achievement) and, apparently, in a recall drive.

The board has spent a huge amount of time dealing with a charter school situation that had to be resolved but soaked up an awful lot of time and energy for the number of students involved. The recall effort grew from that issue.

Hopefully, the board won’t take too long to do its due diligence and launch the proposed biomass boiler project. It would be great to get a project like that done — no cash outlay and significant savings down the road.

It’s easy to fall into “get government out of our lives” rhetoric, and when it is conspicuously dysfunctional, it seems that it wouldn’t be missed. But what we really need is government that works, that is limited in scope and has core missions and competencies, government that delivers. Good roads, good schools, cops and firefighters there when you need them — that sort of thing.

At least on the local level we can help make that happen. All it takes is doing a little homework and showing up...

Jim Cornelius, Editor

1 comment:

  1. Part of the problem locally is to set terms of limits on how long school board members can serve.We need new ideas and opinions rather than self serving agendas.