By Kathi Bliss
When I was in sixth grade, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., on a school trip with about a dozen classmates. I remember that it was a wonderful trip – we spent four days visiting monuments, historic ranches, museums and libraries. We didn’t make the trek to Capitol Hill, but in retrospect, that doesn’t really matter, because at that point in time, I wasn’t really concerned with what Congress was up to, and I suspect my classmates weren’t either.
Looking back, I wonder if my sixth grade teacher wasn’t wiser than I gave her credit for, and didn’t want to introduce us to the disillusionment of government gridlock at such a young age. I suppose I should thank her for that. (Thanks, Ms. Castillo!)
Two decades and change later, I see that gridlock every day, and quite frankly, I’m tired of it. The truly sad thing is the gridlock has left Washington, and it’s spreading like kudzu across the nation. These days, it’s settled in Caldwell County, and it’s choking us to death.
What it’s really making me wonder, though, is if we’ve truly become a nation divided, and what we’re going to do now.
We’ve come to expect gridlock from our national leaders. It’s almost become the standard that our Congress isn’t going to do anything, because our Congress can’t agree on anything. It’s alarming, and it’s more than a bit irritating, but when push comes right down to shove, it is what it is.
What we don’t expect is to see the same things happen in our local government. It would stand to reason that a smaller body, representing a smaller populace would still have a grip on the concept of the finer points of compromise.
But it doesn’t seem so. At least it didn’t on Monday.
More and more, as I watch our County Commissioners, our Lockhart ISD School Board and, to a lesser degree, our City Council, I see the early signs of gridlock. Our local politics haven’t quite reached the level of rush hour traffic in Houston… but meetings these days are vaguely reminiscent of I-35 in downtown Austin at about 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. More and more, I see things not getting done, and business either being tabled or falling by the wayside altogether because the leadership can’t achieve a majority vote.
It truly saddens me.
The real reason it makes me sad, I suppose, is because I’m naïve enough to still want to believe that our elected leaders believe that they’re truly representing the people that elected them. If that’s true, then we’re in big trouble. If it’s true that our leaders are representing the will of their constituents, then we’ve become so fractured that we no longer recognize common ground. We no longer acknowledge the concept of “give-and-take” and we no longer understand that we all have something to learn by listening to a differing point of view.
Some people take a more cynical and sinister view on it, and believe that the division is a function of our elected leaders seeking, or attempting to protect or expand, their power, and the power of those that surround them. I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to believe that, even at this level, elected leaders are interested not in representing the public interest, but in representing their own.
It’s getting harder and harder to hold on to my naivety. It’s becoming more difficult by the day to hold on to hope. That makes it easier by the day to take the plunge into absolute disillusionment.
I’m calling on every elected official in Caldwell County at this point, and begging you to start listening – not only to your constituents, and not only to each other, but start listening to yourselves. Start questioning your own motives. Start questioning your own decisions.
And more importantly than all of that combined, start leading us.
To avoid complete gridlock, someone has to drive the pace car. Someone has to take the lead, and someone has to clear a path. That’s what we elected you to do, and that’s what we want.
Leadership doesn’t always mean that you have to be right. Leadership means that you have to do the right thing.