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Fletcher: Those who adapt will survive

September 4, 2012
Stephen Fletcher , The Alpena News

I was reading an article by George Friedman in Geopolitical Weekly about exogenous influences. I know you are rolling your eyes thinking that I have strange literary tastes but bear with me.

Friedman contended presidents of the United States often do not have a choice about which issues will get addressed during their presidency. He used as examples George W. Bush and 9-11, John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam, and Barack Obama and the economic recession.

All four presidents had campaigned on issues different from the subsequent defining moments of their presidency. Each of those moments got in the way of their campaign promises and each man's presidential term was judged by an unforeseen event or exogenous influence.

No one blamed them for those defining moments. However, each was judged by how he handled the exogenous influence.

Friedman's point was that campaign promises probably aren't as important as the candidate's character. He postulates that perhaps it is better to vote for the candidate's character rather than the platform because often there never is a chance to implement the platforms in an ever changing global environment.

Friedman also contended sometimes the campaigns become a sort of beauty contest rather than an evaluation of the candidate's character. Voters get bogged down in side issues and don't pay enough attention to how we think a candidate will react in the middle of the night when the red telephone rings.

These are rapidly changing times and even on the local level it's good to take a look at which of our local politicians are flexible and which aren't. It's my contention that for rapidly changing circumstances we need folks who argue with the philosophy "We've always done it that way, so that's the way that we will do it."

Look at education as an example of what I'm saying.

The Alpena Public Schools has gone from 10,000 kids years ago to less than 4,000 today. I believe we can safely say that those residents of child-bearing age has declined in the region.

Since at one time one school superintendent handled a much larger pupil count, isn't it feasible that if we combined a couple of counties into one district today, that we could collectively save money? Actually, I had a senior school administrator say that very thing to me.

The same is true of local government.

If we combined local government units, we would gain efficiency by eliminating the bureaucracy of bosses, not the worker bees. This efficiency could occur by combining all fire departments in the county into just one, with one chief and a staff of professionals that would maintain standards and train volunteers.

I recently ran across a local government employee who said he had a request from a neighboring unit for some help. I was told that he rejected the request because it wasn't within his jurisdiction.

I suggest our local exogenous is a lack of money, and we must find ways to help each other. Don't expect help from Lansing as Gov. Rick Snyder has said he thinks there are too many political subdivisions as it is.

Like the Cuban Crisis, 9-11, and Vietnam, the budget shortfalls locally eventually will mandate consolidation. The smart mayors, supervisors and commissioners will be the one proactive to protect their constituents. The other poor taxpayers under the "we always did it this way..." leadership will get clobbered financially.

The character of our local elected officials soon will be revealed.



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