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Editorial: Local Government Works

A "drain the swamp” approach to government has its fans, even now, but there’s nothing like a pandemic to itemize the price we pay for weak leadership in government and the hollowing-out of core government operations. And there’s nothing like a pandemic to underscore the benefits of competent governmental leadership supported by robust scientific, administrative, and regulatory services—in fact, a bureaucracy—with deep expertise and experience to help us steer a steady course through this crisis. We use the word “bureaucracy” deliberately: we hear it mostly as a derogatory epithet, but at its best, as Merriam Webster tells us, it is “government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority.”

For a growing majority of Americans, it has become clear that we suffer real harm from rambling, stream-of-consciousness-style, factually-detached leadership. It has become painfully clear, at the national level, that the Trump Administration’s 3+ years of devaluation of expertise and hollowing-out of key agencies and functions has come with a high price tag. It turns out that “deconstruction of the administrative state,” Steve Bannon’s rallying cry against a perceived evil “deep state,” is in fact destructive to our collective good.

For a large majority of Californians, it has become crystal clear that we benefit from having a governor whose high-energy leadership is rooted in a deep understanding of key issues ranging from science and public health to our state’s economy.

Locally, we have seen our new City Manager work collaboratively with our City Council, with neighboring jurisdictions, and with the community to make emergency decisions to protect our community, responding nimbly to rapidly evolving conditions. And her leadership is supported by the “best and brightest” staff that Del Mar attracts even though we are quite demanding as a community: public works, firefighters, lifeguards, planners, and more. We especially salute them now, as their work for us comes at greater risk.

We’re going to need expert governance and leadership to get us through this public health and economic crisis. Good governance is not accidental; it flows from a citizenry that is engaged, informed, and committed to strong values. And it’s an outcome worthy of our best collective effort. Government, as it turns out, is deadly relevant.

 

 

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