Horace Mann suggested “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day until at last we cannot break it.” How else to explain the near-kabuki theatre masquerading as the budget process we just endured, and more importantly perhaps, made one another endure?
What could be less unexpected than gathering up city employees, from department heads through teachers as well as school children, and holding all of them hostages while various advocates storm the podium in council chambers and thunder about dire consequences to us all should funds not be available and adequate.
You say ‘tomato,’ I say ‘tomatoh’ and the next thing you know we have a food fight of epic proportions going on. Talk about a ‘clean-up in aisle seven.’ We should start at City Hall and work our way to the city limits.
As long as we allow ourselves to handicap a horserace with phrases like 'winners' and 'losers' while looking at a process creating a 116 million dollar municipal budget we're looking at the hole instead of the doughnut.
Do we have a process to determine what is 'needed' rather than what is fervently desired and presented publicly as a need? Is there a process in place to identify the funding, the full funding, of every 'need' we have? And have we prioritized the needs based on greatest good and return on investment.
If we don't have those things, and I’d submit we do not, nor do we have the political will to define that process, early next June we'll do exactly the same dance as this year only some of the dancers may be different (but sadly familiar). The song remains the same.
We change aldermen/women (city managers and others)-but we always arrive at budget decisions in the exact place, where the road and the sky collide. How and why does this happen and keep happening? A Confederacy of Dunces? A Conspiracy of Feckless and the Reckless? No, hardly.
The fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.
We created this and we have to solve it.
Wringing our hands, yelling at elected representatives, wildly applauding people who agree with us and/or disapprovingly murmuring at those who don’t, wearing tee-shirt with slogans, holding banners in front of City Hall--all of that is a distraction masquerading as part of a process it, in reality, perverts.
Truth to tell each of us knows how to solve the challenge of an affordable and equitable budget, but how many are willing to?
It must be our willingness combined with an ability to work with like-minded (and often UNlike-minded) people of good will that is worth vastly more than all the posturing and pouting that brought us here again and which keeps us here always. Habits and threads.
Think about who we are and who you'd like us to become (and what you're willing to pay to do that) between now and Election Day. It could be habit-forming.