Op/Ed: Is disconnect between politicians, people occurring here?

In his annual message to Congress in December of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
In December 2012 the Hanover Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to abolish all “going –forward” proffers from residential housing developers. These proffers were used primarily for schools and roads required to support the new residents.  In 2013 it was projected that 41 percent of proffers would go to the Hanover County school system to cover part of the costs of new students from the development.
According to the newspaper reports this decision by our Supervisors was made without any input from the public. Even some of the Supervisors seemed surprised by how quickly this issue came up for a vote. If I were a developer with business interest in Hanover County, I would have made certain County officials were advised of the “benefits” of the elimination of proffers. But, perhaps, the developers were also silent of this matter.
New housing developments result in an influx of new students in the school system.  But the Supervisors decide to eliminate these proffers and reduce school funding. And who will pay for the new infrastructure needed to support these new developments? Does this mean that the added cost of school and infrastructure brought on by a new development will be paid for by all taxpayers in the county? Is that logical?
The staff report provided to the Supervisors prior to their decisive vote estimated that new revenues of $10 million in 2013 (and increasing to $25 million in 20 years) would be needed to offset the elimination of proffers. Did the Board of Supervisors ignore this crucial piece of information?
But my point is this: If the Supervisors had held public hearings on this very important matter, then their final vote, regardless of which way it went, would have had the benefit of “team” input. It strikes me that we generally build better products and make better decisions when we involve the “team.”
The situation here in Hanover County reminds me of the corporate CEO who makes all his decisions after talking frequently with his salespeople but has failed to listen to the workers on the company’s  assembly line that build the product.
An example of enlightened management: Over the past few years General Electric has changed its manufacturing strategy in Kentucky (Appliance Park in Louisville) by bringing salesmen, designers, manufacturing managers, assembly line workers, etc. under the same roof. The cost of a GE unit designed, built, and shipped by this “team” can be 20 percent less costly than the identical unit built in China.
In this age of supersonic technology, where events and materials and products change at an ever increasing speed, the “team in one room” approach makes the most sense for corporate America. This concept surely would work very well with politicians and citizens in the public venue of government.
The recent “cliff-hanging” episodes in Washington over the fiscal budget resulted in numerous interviews with Congressmen and representatives from the Executive Branch. Everyone in Washington had a lot to say but most of the words come out as “non-answers.”  Those vague, often blank statements caused me to think about the daily lives of these Washington folks, how they socialized, and who they talked with on a regular basis. And why they seem to be unable to understand and communicate with real people. From all the interviews that came out of Washington, old “dogma” seemed to rule.
Could the dysfunction in Washington be brought on, at least in part, by the fact that the politicians are getting their input from citizens through the lens of a small slice of the real America?
And is it possible this lack of communication between politicians and real people is happening, not just in Washington, but at all levels of government around the country? Could it be happening here in Hanover County?
The political world, much like our daily lives and our businesses, is changing at an ever increasing pace. It would, In My Opinion, prove extremely beneficial if politicians were to develop the “team” approach as a major component of their deliberations prior to proposing and then voting on critical legislation.
Real people don’t have a lobbyist working for them. But politicians need to talk with and grasp the concerns of real people. Talking about the dysfunction in Washington, the unemployed steel worker in Ohio lamented, much like President Lincoln 150 years ago, “This is not about politics…it’s about America.”
As to those proffers, I hasten to add: This is not about politics…it’s about Hanover County.


Ragan Phillips

Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 10:43 am