Let’s Talk About Some Issues
Public policy impacts everyone, one way or another. Taxpayer’s fund the policy directives, and hopefully the people are better off because a good public policy decision was made. When we find and maintain the perfect balance between public spending and corresponding public benefit, people trust their elected officials, believe in the government process and engage in constructive community building and respectful dialog.
This balance is hard to find because public policy issues are complicated and sometimes politics get in the way. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to simply determine what should be included and what shouldn’t. Is a service public because the taxpayers fund it, or because the public uses it? Does the policy need to benefit everyone or just a few? Is doing something better than doing nothing?
Put the complications aside and remember that the people paying the bill, along with the people directly benefiting deserve an efficient, transparent process that produces positive and transparent outcomes. When elected officials hold that in high regard, they’re on their way to finding that perfect balance.
With this in mind, there are a number of serious and complex issues that challenge large metropolitan regions across the country, including Hennepin. Homelessness for example, affordable housing, child maltreatment, eviction, economic racial and academic disparities, congestion, mental health, and increasing incidents of violent crime.
To date, society’s response has been to let government along with a few foundations and not-for-profit partners take aim, start pilots, build more public programs and spend more claiming a different approach with “upstream investments” will solve the problems that families in crisis face. Yet, more people are homeless, housing is less affordable with every passing day, massive disparities continue to plague our region and violent crime rates are climbing.
We want to believe that reasonable public investments are being made at the right time in the right place. We need to know that our elected leaders are evaluating which interventions are successful and bolstering them, while jettisoning programs that don’t work. We need to trust that the hefty taxes we all pay are spent smart and make a difference and not wasted. But they’re not doing it and they’re losing our trust. That lack of trust is one of the most important public policy problems we face today.
In the next few months, I’m going to give you my thoughts and ideas on a number of these issues. I’d like you to do the same. Tell me which issues are most pressing in your neighborhood, or community and let’s see where we can work together and think differently work to find that perfect balance in delivering services and serving people in Hennepin County.