If you believe in forever

US_CapitolAnd so it was — amidst all this talk of a government shut down, an “unfair” system of health care delivery and a skyrocketing national debt — that my youngest son was assigned to read Animal Farm.

As so many of us learned in high school, George Orwell wrote Animal Farm as an allegorical reference to the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Matthew finished reading the final chapter last night, and now it appears that our government is about to end yet another temporary shutdown.

Which political party will be blamed for this fiasco remains to be seen. We’ll likely have to wait a little more than a year for that answer.

Allow me to pause here for a moment to ask you a question. Are you surprised that our elected leaders have behaved so foolishly over the past several days? Really?

Maybe we shouldn’t be blaming Congress. Maybe we should be blaming ourselves.

Consider this. Americans elected a man (Republican) who believes that wind turbines “slow down” the wind. We also elected another man (Democrat) who believes that the island of Guam could actually “tip over.”

We have elected members of Congress who enjoy taking pictures of their own genitals and then sending those pictures to porn stars. We have elected members of Congress who believe the internet is little more than “a series of tubes.”

Take these people, put them together in a room with broad Constitutional powers and tell me that is not a recipe for disaster.

But a penchant for stupidity does not end at the DC Beltway. It extends into every nook and cranny of our great nation.

Despite all the rapid advances in technology, we humans have changed very little over the last 2,000 years.

The popularity of Wikipedia should have been a wake-up call. But still, so many of us keep doing the same things and yet expect different results.

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. We have access to so much information, yet we operate politically as if children still learn on chalkboards

We all want a chicken in every pot and repeatedly fail to understand the consequences of actually believing political candidates who make such promises.

All politics is local

In my hometown we will soon be asked to choose a mayor and new city councilors.

The lawn signs have begun popping up all over town. The candidates are working their campaigns and making their promises.

This is where it starts. This is where the numbing process begins.

One of our mayoral candidates is promising “lower taxes” and “more jobs.” Although he is short on specifics, I’m almost certain that he also likes puppies, French fries and cold beer. Why wouldn’t you vote for that guy? Sounds good, right?

Most of us are too busy to peel back the layers of such a perfunctory campaign. We have jobs, families and the Red Sox are playing.

Some local folks are upset about property taxes. They are planning to take out their frustration on an incumbent candidate who is seeking re-election.

Sounds smart, right? Toss the bum out. Vote for one of his opponents.

There’s just a few things you should consider. The incumbent has only been the mayor for two years, and the city council decides the budget.

Why is this important? Four years ago, under the leadership of a different mayor, the city’s voters overwhelmingly voted to approve a $35 million bond in order to finally complete a long overdue renovation at the high school. I supported that bond question but sometimes it feels like I am one of the few people who read the fine print on the ballot.

Yeah, taxes went up because we borrowed $35 million to finally fix a project we ignored for decades. Duh!

When I purchased my truck, I drove it off the lot with no money down. A few weeks later, the bank had the nerve to start asking for payments. How arrogant of them! I am going to get a new bank!

Voters are not blaming the former mayor for the tax increase. In fact, the former mayor is today hoping to get her old job back, a prospect made much easier by blaming the current mayor for a situation that happened on her watch.

Our city has several infrastructure problems that need to be addressed. For decades we have ignored and stalled many of these projects to keep taxes low.

The front stairs of our high school were literally crumbling and the gymnasium roof was leaking before we were willing to invest a dime. Stalling those repairs did not make them less expensive. In fact, we stalled right past the deadline to qualify for some state funding for those repairs.

But hey, let’s blame the guy who has been in the mayor’s office for 22 months. It’s all his fault, right?

For 30 years, our city bitched and moaned about a controversial trash-to-energy incinerator that was located in the center of our downtown area. The stench of burning trash became a humiliating calling card for our community. Merchants and businesses complained. Economic development was thwarted and diminished.

The city spent decades in court, racking up huge legal fees in fighting against the facility’s former owner. Every mayor in the last 20 years pledged to get rid of the facility. It was politically popular rhetoric.

Then, after 30 years of complaining and wringing our hands, our current mayor (the new guy) led a team that was able to negotiate the closure of the facility. The problem is now gone. No more wasted time, energy and resources will be spent on that particular problem.

Results matter. Talk is cheap and empty promises are politically convenient.

We have a responsibility to pay attention. Otherwise, the wind may begin to slow and islands could start tipping over.

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5 thoughts on “If you believe in forever

  1. All politics are local is an overused colloquialism but I agree with most of your comments. I too read the fine print and I was OK with investing in the future of Biddeford education, at least in regards to providing a safe, clean, warm and dry learning. I don’t have kids in Biddeford schools but I went to Biddeford schools. We support the High School knowing it would cost us a few bucks over the term of the bond financing.

    I agree with most of your comments about the guy who’s only been in office 22 months. We shouldn’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater (another colloquialism right?) but the Mayor does set the agenda and has the ability to veto the budget. Worried tax payers have a valid concern. You have to admit that point.

    We need to change the make-up of the current council and provide at least a fresh start. I don’t advocate storming the castle (yet another) but we need to accountability. I spoke with one current Councilor who is in the middle of a tough re-election challenge about abdication of responsibility. He flatly denied it but when a legislative body fails to budget for required improvement to keep basic infrastructure running and our streets safe, they are doing exactly what past administrations did with the High School.

    Lastly…Biddeford voters reading this should be asking themselves where they want their City to grow in the future, how much they are willing to pay to support this growth, how much they want to hold our leaders accountable and why they would want to return members of the Council, who failed the City by failing to lead, to the Council for another two years. At the end of the day, we always get the government we deserve. We hire these guys (and gals) but we quickly forget that. If you don’t like where the City is and the road we took to get here, consider replacing these perennial* candidates. Someone (Einstein?) once said that doing the same thing and expecting differing results is equal to insanity. I think Biddeford voters are smarter than that. Same candidates hoping for different results? Doesn’t make sense. The next Charter Review Commission will need to strongly consider term limits.

    *Perennial Candidates= Angers, Bourque, Fleurent, Laveririere, Lessard, McCurry, Mills, Rhames, Twomey

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