3 Things I Learned Serving On Your Neighborhood Board Part II: On Who Actually Runs The Government

Previously in this series I wrote about how regulations have been created in our city and state that only limit the actions of everyday people while allowing big developers to destroy our communities. While it is definitely important to focus on the lawmakers who create these laws and regulations, it is equally important to focus on the people who enforce these laws and regulations.

#2: Unelected public employees run the government  — not politicians.

Solving problems in government involves so much more than just writing an email or making a phone call to your representatives. More often than not your representatives — even those on your Neighborhood Board — aren’t much more than gatekeepers to the people with actual power to solve your problem. To see what I mean, we don’t need to look beyond your friendly neighborhood DMV. When you have to renew your license or have problems with your vehicle registration, who is it that helps you? Chances are it’s a customer service representative whose career it currently is to sit behind a desk and process as much paperwork as possible within an 8 hour window. This isn’t to belittle the position, as anyone who has had their license expire can attest how important these people are, but it should be noted that there is no motivation for superior customer service.

Another perfect example is the now-infamous false missile alert in Hawaii in early 2018, when a state employee was able to unilaterally send a nuclear attack warning alert to almost a million people by mistake. According to Washington Post editor and former Hawaii Commerce Department spokesman Gene Park, this was just the latest in a pattern of incompetence and mediocrity that plague our government. Simply put, the no-make-waves attitude in our state has led to a system which rewards mediocrity and puts seniority over competence. Park put it best.

Via Washington Post:

That attitude has consequences. The FCC report shows it was no secret that the missile alert’s author was inept. Yet he somehow landed the critical job of telling an entire state whether its people could die in a nuclear blast. While 10 years passed, his supervisors did nothing to remove him from a job they knew he was unqualified for, nor did they implement procedures for what to do if someone accidentally sent a missile alert. It took a national embarrassment to dislodge him from his job.

Unfortunately this is the case with almost every single facet of government. If such a person is in charge of authoring and sending a missile defense warning to the entire state, one can only imagine who is inspecting our homes ensuring they are built to code, signing off on building permits, deciding which roads need to be repaved, and so much more.

The question of why this is the case is another story entirely and probably warrants its own entry at some point. The same for a prescription to fix it. But as said by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar and many others after him, the first step to solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.

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