Moving forward locally in the age of gridlock

Friday, October 25, 2013
Murray Bishoff, news editor

One of the unfortunate consequences of the government shutdown has been a growing distaste for elected officials. We already had problems getting people to run for office locally. Messes like Washington stand-offs leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth and make the problem worse.

It seems refusing to compromise has become the big problem in the political arena. Somehow, finding common ground has become a dirty activity among those players. Or maybe, on the state and federal level, politics has become a game, and everyone has been reduced to a player.

Nobody runs a city like that. Those who stand up and says, "It's my way or no way," are usually gone in a couple years and never heard from again.

School boards don't operate that way. The mission has become too complex, much more than "build a winning team," as that won't bring families there to live. Alumni look for glory like that. Families with kids look for a school with computers for the kids and high test scores.

Our election process hasn't helped the situation. People would rather elect "that good fellow we've always liked" than take positions. Yet historically, it's been taking a stand on positions that has brought change, and people willing to take those stands.

During World War II, Monett leaders, led by the always progressive V.B. Hall, started thinking about what would happen when the work force came back from war, after everybody made due filling the jobs in their absence. The leaders had to reshape the economy so there would be jobs for everybody, and think about what that meant to the world as they knew it.

Some of that same thinking is needed today.

Would Monett residents support city council candidates who advocated fixing flooding, rebuilding the City Park Casino, building a water plant, expanding the airport, running water to the airport and providing financial support for downtown revitalization? It's easier to campaign on "Pride and Progress," whatever that means.

Monett has been lucky in getting both from its leaders.

In our neighboring towns, it would be great to hear school board candidates who file for office in December announce they will push to get computers for every student and present a financial plan for how to do it. The time has come for school districts to pass bond issues to buy computers, not just to erect buildings.

The kind of bold leadership that has strengthened Monett has arisen out of exactly what's missing in the higher levels of government: mutual agreement on how to make life and operations run better, a full commitment to doing things locally and the ability to tap resources to achieve the goal. Other towns and other school districts need to take note and follow the same path.

It may require creating a vision first, like the leaders in Purdy recently tried to do. Then it takes leaders, someone to champion the vision. It's time for leaders to come forward married to ideas, instead of selling the public on personalities. Going farther will take more than settling for the way things always were.

The need is growing.