First mayor – then Congress

Author: Barrett Rainey

Having become thoroughly disgusted at the mess in Washington – and believing little – if anything – will change in 2014 – I’ve been trying to find some sort of solutions to our congressional problems. Yep, even here in the old growth, Oregon forest, we try to keep up on current events and even chip in an idea now and then. Now, I’ve got one.

And it’s this. No one – NO ONE – should be allowed to run for any seat in Congress until that person has served at least a full term as a mayor, city councilman or county commissioner. Such political apprenticeships should be an absolute first step for anyone wanting higher office. No exceptions.

Think about it. Few other professions – and that’s what national politics is now – few professions allow someone right off the street to step in at the top without some sort of internship – some special training for the duties about to be undertaken. From medicine to professional sports to banking to flying an airplane – we’ve been conditioned to studying and preparing under supervision before assuming control. Whether it’s a medical residency, minor league ball or ground school – you first learn rudiments of the craft before you get the “license.”

I began thinking along these lines when that goofy Palin woman pranced out of the Alaskan bush with solutions to all our dilemmas. But HER problem was she “knew what she knew” and was supremely confident she didn’t need to know anymore. Half a term as governor and some whispers in her ear from John McCain were all she needed to become “expert” in the heady world of national politics. We all know how that ended. “ Sarah who?” Had she gone back to her days as part time mayor of Wasilla, she might have had some useful backgrounding for higher office. But noooo! She had to start at the top.

I’ve long-believed the most practical, most useful, most important political decisions are made in city halls and county courthouses. From pot holes to zoning issues to drinking water to street lights to prompt fire department response to levying taxes to pay the bills to neighborhood policing to the local jail – it’s all right here at home and it’s all got to be taken care of by local folks. None of this “Potomac living” and “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality so many in Congress quickly adopt.

How do you expect someone who can’t balance a checkbook to go to Washington and effectively deal with a federal budget in the trillions of dollars with no experience? Now, if you start with a mayor or a commissioner, for example, those folks have had to balance local budgets to pay for all operations because various laws require a balanced municipal or county budget. Require! None of this “running a deficit” crap. They know how to do it. If they don’t do it each year, they don’t last.

Communication. Another valuable qualification for office we’re slowly losing. You send ‘em back there and about all you hear from them is the continual “newsletter” accompanied by a plea for campaign donations. Yes, I know. A congressional district is most often larger that a city or county. Harder to keep in touch. But it can be done. Oregon Senators Merkley and Wyden do it. For a whole state. They hit just about every community in person once a year and keep up a steady stream of emails and briefings on major legislation weekly. Very unusual. But county commissioners and city council members know how to stay in touch. Damned important.

Negotiating. If you can’t work out differences over local zoning, sewer districts, highway placement, bridge building and dozens of other hot button issues face-to-face at home, what else could better prepare you to go to Washington D.C. and get along with 99 others in the Senate or 434 others in the House when it comes to getting done what you want done? If you can’t plan and build a local park or builkd a new sewer system, how can you be successful getting federal approval to log in old growth national forests? Oh, you might luck out. Once or twice. But not over the long haul. You develop the skills at home for long term success back there.

Oh, yeah. I know. Some of you are thinking I’ve finally gone off the deep end. But think about it. Wouldn’t you rather have someone back there representing you who had some prior experience in the job? Wouldn’t it be more effective if the people taking on those large, important, well-paying tasks had some “on-the-job” experience before they leave home? Wouldn’t you be better and more effectively served if people in congress had some prior training? Wouldn’t you rather have a professional with at least some experience rather than someone who was selling shoes last month? Or trying to pray gays straight?

We’ve sent too many amateurs back there with half-vast experience. Which is why we’re getting too many half-vast responses to our national problems.

And, frankly, I’m getting sick of all those half-vasts.

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