It’s Up to You 

Some people don’t believe this, but it’s true: from time to time, we go out into the actual world to talk to real people. And all we’re getting lately is a bunch of whining. We can identify.
Some people don’t believe this, but it’s true: from time to time, we go out into the actual world to talk to real people. And all we’re getting lately is a bunch of whining. We can identify. What follows are your general complaints: the governor is screwing up TennCare; the sales tax is too high; the state legislature wouldn’t know ethical standards if Moses himself brought them down from Mount Sinai; the mayor is starting to disappoint you; chuckleheads dominate the Metro Council; it seems like most of the politicians around here are either dumb, corrupt, incompetent or all of the above; and you, your family, your community and your God all deserve better. Does that about sum it up? Good. Well, Concerned Citizens, what are you gonna do about it? Because, frankly, your track record so far hasn’t been anything spectacular. In fact, it’s pathetic. We know, we know: you keep up with current events, you give money to a few activist organizations, you listen to talk radio, you write letters to the editor, and you even put bumper stickers on your car. Hell, you may even write or call your elected officials from time to time. We’re not impressed. What really matters are the people who run for office in the first place. And if we have a shortage of anything, it’s that. Just look at the numbers. Nashville has a population of roughly 600,000 people. Divide that by 35 council districts, and it comes out to around 17,000 people in each district. Remove around 40 percent of those to account for people generally too young (under 25 or so) or too old (over 75 or so) to run for council. That leaves 10,200 people. Now, let’s be generous and suppose that around 80 percent of those people can’t run for office for some reason or another: their jobs, their families, they’re dumb as posts, whatever. That would leave somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 people who could run for a Metro Council seat. So why is it that, on average, only two or three people, or 0.001 percent of those who could have run, actually ran for each council seat in 2003? And don’t even get us started on the state legislature. That’s even worse. The average state house district, for instance, has roughly 60,800 people in it. You can do the math from there. You need to stop pretending to be involved and really get involved. Elections for the legislature are just over a year from now. Elections for the council are just nine months after that. We need the criminal lawyer who has dealt with the judicial system firsthand and knows where it works and where it doesn’t. We need the self-made businessman who can bring new ideas to government. We need the retired teacher who has served on the front lines of public education. We need the health care professional who has real-world experience with TennCare, Medicare, Medicaid and all of that other stuff that only about 10 people on Capitol Hill even remotely understand. We need the homemaker who understands what life is like for the average citizen beyond all of the party platforms, white papers and fiscal notes that clutter the political sphere. In short, we need people like you. It may be some of the hardest work you ever do, but democracy isn’t supposed to be a piece of cake. Newspapers like this one thrive on poking fun at the foibles of our elected officials—the dumb, the corrupt, the incompetent and the all-of-the-above. But we’d be happy to write a piece about how swell things are going because people who actually have a clue are finally in charge. So get out there, take your lumps and show us what you can do. But above all, stop your whining. One more bit of advice: if you’re a conservative who wants to run for office, call Joe Hall at Hall Strategies at 242-8856. He’s got a brilliant strategic mind. If you lean left, call the equally sharp Stewart Clifton at 305-2946. Good luck.


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