Opinion | Paul Olson: Forget the politics, just make good decisions | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Paul Olson: Forget the politics, just make good decisions

It’s been said that all politics are local. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill liked to use this zen-like phrase to convey that politicians need to understand the everyday concerns of their constituents more so than big national issues in order to get elected and be effective. Next week’s Summit County local elections for town council fortunately exclude political labels. There is no “D” or “R” by the candidate’s name on the ballot. We must judge them by words and deeds instead of a party affiliation. I would guess most voters want candidates who will be conservative in how they carefully manage the town’s budget, yet be somewhat progressive in dealing with a variety of new challenges in our tourism-based economy.

One issue that has been reported at length in both the Summit Daily News and national media in recent weeks is the shortage of child care. Town council candidates must be ready to tackle this problem and its effect on the workforce shortage hindering our local economy. The free market is proving very slow in addressing this problem, so the county and towns have committed funds to subsidize day care fees, supplement wages to child care workers and aid in the construction of new facilities. I have a much higher comfort level with the local effort to fund child care where common sense will hopefully prevail than I do on the federal level where politics often gets in the way.

The $2 trillion Build Back Better bill that was approved by the U.S. House in the fall (but currently stalled in the Senate) included $400 billion for child care. When I see numbers in the hundreds of billions I get a little dizzy and an alarm goes off in my head. I hate to see our nation go more deeply into debt, and I am skeptical of the federal government’s ability to properly manage this huge sum without there being waste and fraud.

I have not read the bill, but I am guessing that a portion of this proposed aid for child care would be helpful in boosting national employment and adding to economic growth. However, we will never know the end result because partisan bickering will stifle any debate. Economist Robert Reich laments that both Republicans and Democrats no longer hold to their core values and tribalism has taken the place of good legislating in Congress. The media and politicians will make it a battle between runaway socialism and uncaring greed, resulting in (surprise!) soaring campaign contributions. Fortunately, there is more sanity in Summit County.

It is likely there will be a considerable amount of government spending on affordable housing and child care in Summit County during the next few years. The severe worker shortage is too great of a threat to the local economy for county officials to just kick the can down the road. In contrast to the Washington way of doing things, there will be an opportunity for much public debate to help ensure effective and efficient use of funds for these programs.

We shouldn’t see a problem every time local government spends money. Instead, we could do some research to see if the funds are spent wisely. Fire protection or snowplowing are necessities. Prudent spending on affordable housing or child care may be what is required to maintain a healthy economy and can result in a good return on investment that pays off in greater sales tax revenue and rising local incomes. If a project does not have merit, this should be revealed in budget projections, council debate and public hearings, and given the appropriate opposition. It all comes down to good decisions, not politics.

Remember to vote in the April 5 election. We don’t need a Mr. or Ms. Smith Goes to Washington on a town council, just people who are thoughtful and care about the long-term interests of your town. A good way to judge the character of a candidate is to notice who gives back to the community by volunteering their time toward helping nonprofits and civic organizations. Check the Summit Daily website and click “Elections” under the “News” heading for bios on candidates. Whatever the outcome of the elections, remember to occasionally thank those elected officials and government employees who make Summit County run smoothly.

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