“There is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.”
– Fiorello LaGuardia, Republican Mayor of NYC
My background is unique. I have been a State of Georgia regulator (healthcare) and a corporate executive tasked with getting around government regulations. Before I moved to Fayette County, I was also elected twice as a County Commissioner elsewhere in the state. Plus, I was appointed to a county Board of Health twice there and once in Fayette (currently). In Fayette, I have pretty much kept away from politics, although I just finished a term on the Peachtree City Planning Commission.
There is one key thing that I have learned. Local officials should make decisions based on three criteria: Resident quality of life, impact on local budgets, and broader societal goals (such as diversity or equity). It seems simple, but I have found that these criteria are often not utilized for a variety of reasons.
Instead, some elected officials (as opposed to those on voluntary Boards) have substituted ideological goals as their basis for decision making. These ideological criteria include: Supporting capitalism versus government regulation, extent of applicant contributions, family/social ties, ability to get electoral votes, philosophical pro-growth stances, and vague promises of job creation.
I have many stories to tell which illustrate my point but let me just give one as an example of how the corporate world functions vis a vie government.
Decades ago, I was over regional new hospital development for the second largest for-profit hospital chain in the nation. I was tasked with replacing a specialty hospital in Memphis and getting the state and local governmental approvals necessary.
To make a long story short, zoning was a major issue.
Our planners believed the best site for the hospital was near an upscale neighborhood with lots of patients covered by good insurance. Unfortunately, the mayor lived in that area, so I retained a politically-connected attorney to shepherd the political process but indicated to him up front that I would not approve doing anything unethical.
Our initial hearing before the City Council did not go well. Council members were very familiar with the proposed site and appropriately questioned the effect that a hospital would have on the neighborhood’s quality of life (noise, traffic, and so on).
At this point, I was faced with two options: Relocate the project to a different site or follow the advice of the politically connected, respected lawyer advising me on the case.
What was the advice of the attorney? He advised me to have the corporation make immediate, substantial contributions to all of the Council members. Although these contributions were 100 percent legal, I refused solely on ethical grounds. I never did get the zoning and ended up moving the hospital site. Frankly, the Council was correct in denying the zoning. However, my suspicion is that other individuals within my corporation and others would have acted very differently.
The point of this illustration is that voters need to be more aware of how and why their local officials vote on major issues before them. Are they using the above three criteria (quality of life, equity, and budget)? Or is it politics as usual?
Put in the time to do the research and vote for or against these politicians based on accurate information, not rumor, rhetoric, appearance, or passion.