Thursday, February 28, 2008

Officials Should Give Air Cover

I heard Lynn Singleton, President of PFM, give a great analogy today. He intimated that it is the role of local officials to give air cover to public servants as they work through very complicated problems.

I hadn’t thought of that analogy before, but it rings true. That is when local government functions at its best. And most elected officials over the years have done just that, provide air cover. Anything they had to say in the way of coaching or reprimands was done in private, as it’s done in most organizations.

But a few folks, and I consider them friends of mine, have taken the now-prevalent approach at the federal level. Rather than air cover, at the federal level, it seems officials are more likely to take pot shots at public servants with zingers, eye-rolling, sarcasm and one-liners designed to feed the voracious appetite of an ever-inflated number of media outlets, eager for conflict.

Others seem to have an ax to grind, seizing on every opportunity to make someone else look stupid. Others seem to believe that everyone can be an expert at everything, and that makes them one, so they constantly second guess.

The result at the federal level sure hasn’t been better government. The result has been demoralization, stigmatization of public service and bumper-sticker politics.

I think we all need to step back and think about Lynn’s comment. I think everyone would be better served by working in collaboration.

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