Local Government: Continued Erosion of Faith and Trust
Local governments, public servants and their respective communities across the country are beginning to face the wrath of a phenomenon known as ‘Community Warming’. This drastic change in community climate is a direct result of manmade environmental conditions that have led to the continued erosion of faith, confidence and trust in local government.
The Community Warming effect is being caused by increasing concentrations of hot air being produced by political candidates, special interests and certain individuals who harbor an offense against their local government. Pollsters have been tracking the effects of such climate change at the national level through various polls. For example, the latest Gallup polling data has tracked the Congressional Job Approval Rating to be that of 12%; Rasmussen Reports polling data has just 32% of the population feeling that the country is headed in the right direction; and the New York Times has the President’s Job Approval polling data at only 41% favorable. Although these numbers are reflective of the national climate, the public’s negative sentiment generally flows downhill to that of state and local governments, their employees and leadership.
Compounding this effect are the poisonous emissions from political campaigning that occurs ad nauseam every two years at the local level from the use of toxic verbiage and hazardous rhetoric to diametrically criticize and degrade every aspect of the local government, its employees and its leadership. These espoused pollutants that are released over and over again year after year into the atmosphere, from otherwise trusted sources, find their way into the perceptions and opinions of the populous. From there, they begin to shape the paradigm of the local government and the community. Community pride is subsequently replaced with community mistrust and doubt, charitable giving dries up, volunteerism evaporates and extreme behavior patterns are visible in government meetings, public forums and throughout the social media hemisphere.
When it comes to special interests, those seeking a certain outcome will say or do almost anything to get what they want, even if it means unwarranted fracking into the integrity of the local government, its employees and its leaders. One of the primary armaments used to advance a personal cause is to engage in a concerted crusade to weaken opposition to opposing views. This approach is routinely accomplished by attacking the character of our public servants, misrepresenting the true intentions of the locality, and utilizing polarizing optics that establish a ‘them vs. us’ temperament. Irrespective of the outcome, the aftermath of the crusade often leaves community investors with lingering apprehension and relegated confidence.
The third hazardous element that is contributing to Community Warming and the erosion of public trust in local government, is quite possibly the most difficult to remedy. This noxious emission is devoid of any reason, logic or common sense and is most frequently derived from a perceived offense. This offense could be birthed from a standard notice of violation from the zoning administrator or building official, to a simple citation from the animal control officer. Whatever the root cause, individuals that harbor an offense tend to pursue the local government and its employees with ferocity at a personal level. This level of attack tends to have significant destructive consequences on a locality’s staff and/or leadership, and an unbalancing effect on the community ecosystem as a whole. Regardless of the efforts or proffers put forth by a local government, in some cases the individual offended is never placated. They allow the offense to lay dormant in wait until another similar or non-germane issue arises that will allow them to revisit and exercise their latent frustrations with the establishment.
What we can all do to combat this climatic change may be simpler then we think. The solutions to reverse the trend all start with accepting the responsibility to put the community first and to keep all issues in the proper environment they belong. Politics need not transcend politics, business not transcend business and a single personal issue not be used as the sum total to evaluate the rectitude of the local government. Political candidates need to stick to the issues and not generally besmirch the local government, its employees or its operations for personal or political gain, as this only proves to erode the faith, confidence and trust of the institution. Regardless of the election results, elections do little to repair all the damage that occurred to the reputation of the local government during the campaign(s). Special interests need to focus on the positives that their projects, causes or requests bring the community, not misdirect the discussion deleteriously with no regard for the ecological impact. And lastly, those that truly care about their community will choose to resolve their tempests appropriately, sans acidic aggressions across the entire landscape of the local government.
Local communities are warming at an alarming rate and irresponsible self-serving behavior is the primary cause. I trust that we can all agree that we have an ever growing problem and that we will have the courage to put our communities first before it’s too late to save our communities from the disastrous effects of ‘Community Warming’.