Tending to the Nitty-Gritty

Our televisions and Internet feeds are rapidly filling with coverage of the 2016 Presidential race.

It’s hard to fault the media for its fascination with our quadrennial political spectacle, especially since the Republican field contains no fewer than seventeen candidates (at this count—who knows what other hats may be flung into the ring), many of whom are happily demonstrating that they are spectacularly unfit for public office.

The outcome of the national elections—not just for President, but also for the House and Senate—will have an enormous impact on economic, social and foreign policy, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of electing people who understand the complicated and delicate issues they will face.

What frequently gets lost in arguments over the direction our national government should take, however, is the importance of governing structures much closer to home, and the competence of the people we elect to deal with issues affecting our everyday lives.

A prominent example of the importance of local government—and its impact on civic equality—is the current outcry over incidents of police misconduct. The ubiquity of cameras has generated visual evidence of abuses that might previously have remained “under the radar,” and that evidence has sparked a national conversation about policing: how recruits are selected, the adequacy of training, and the role played by racial stereotypes, among other issues.

These incidents are not spread uniformly across the country; they are generally, although not always, evidence of poor local governing practices.

The importance of good policing to poorer communities is obvious. In cities where crime is poorly controlled, it is generally those neighborhoods that bear the brunt; residents of gated communities and wealthy subdivisions can and do employ additional security (further exacerbating the troubling gap between the haves and have-nots).

Beyond police and fire protection, local government policies and priorities have an immediate effect on those living within their jurisdictions. The ways in which city hall deals with the myriad everyday challenges of municipal life may seem boring until your uncollected garbage draws rats and other vermin, or the wheel of your car is bent in an unfilled pothole, or failure to remediate lead in older neighborhoods permanently diminishes the intellectual capacities of your children.

When we go to the polls to elect Mayors and City Councilors, a focus on their commitment to efficient and equitable delivery of essential public services is important. Quality of life issues are equally important. Public transportation may be a lifestyle choice for the executive who leaves his car in the garage and rides the bus to work, but it is a lifeline for the entry-level worker who can’t afford a car, and one reason that worker’s employer chose to locate where it did.

Far too many Americans ignore off-year elections. This is ironic, because our votes count more in state and local elections and because the policies and performance of local governments have a direct and immediate effect on our daily lives. They matter.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about an effort to make non-off-year-voting Indianapolis residents understand why they should care about who runs our city.


  1. Paragraph 6 and even more often than not the illegal and unlawful activities of the citizens involved

  2. One of the reasons that all government is important in all lives that it services is that it is the free world’s only response to the failure of business that we call poverty. And, according to the leaves that I recently brewed tea from, the future of poverty is bright. Why do I think that business failure will be more prevalent in our future?

    A couple of reasons beyond government control.

    Our connected world. Our economy more and more must be integrated with the global economy. Why? Container shipping and computers have made the country of manufacture nearly irrelevant. And robotics and computers will continue to replace unskilled and semi-skilled labor as third world countries successfully evolve towards our world. A bad time to be struggling without special skills.

    Energy is the magic ingredient in all that business does and our system to produce and distribute it has been discovered to be fatally flawed. We have no choice but to begin all over again. Wipe the slate and start anew. Can we? Barely. Can we not? A resounding no! So despite our best efforts business and government will be at best marginally successful transitioning and to whatever degree we/they fail tax payers will absorb the consequences. Big expensive consequences.

    As obsolete as our energy system our education system is less adequate. Another slate that needs to be erased and reinvented. Or the consequences, poverty, will eat tax payers alive.

    In the U.S. We have another significant slate to be erased. Health care. $1 in every $5 that we spend. A market in which competition is so non-existent that it will consume us until we socialize it. Most countries were smart enough to do that when the industry was a cub. We, in our ego centric wisdom, have waited until the beast can eat us alive before starting to tame it. This one is going to hurt.

    Lastly we have to get over military adventure but can we? Are we smart enough? Can we soon enough to re-purpose that immense wealth to future problems rather than reliving the past?

    Mitigating these monsters will fail. The only variable? The degree. We need the best and the brightest to powerfully lead us through this great transition. Mayors can matter in the pain we will suffer as much as Presidents and Prime Ministers and Mullahs.

    Democracy is our best, but no, not magic, shot. We need it now. It’s reeling now. Our feet are sore from the self inflicted shots they’ve taken.

    We have commutted ourselves to the old swimming lesson model. Throw us in the deep end. Some will rise to the surface and survive.

    Our days spent being entertained are over.

  3. I have harped on the importance of off-year elections but found few who agree with my views. I’m surprised at the lack of interest/comments on this blog; I consider it one of Sheila’s most vital commentaries which, to me, points to her oft mentioned public lack of knowledge of basic civics. You cannot begin to build a house at the roof; you must begin with the foundation and progress upward from there.

    Possibly the lack of response is because she brought out so many problems that it seems overburdened to comprehend. On Facebook in recent days has been a post from a site called (I think) Far Left, referring to ousting the Republicans who receive “free, tax-payer paid health care” and have voted 57 times to repeal the ACA. How many people will believe, “like” and “share” this internet feed without researching if not already aware this isn’t true. Gopper recently commented that my comments are of a personal nature (I forget his words as I forget much of what he says); but he is correct in this assessment. Everything elected officials in all levels of government do or do not do has a personal effect on each and every one of us. Can you find one issue in this blog that does not have an effect on all our lives? And we, using the term “we” in general, gave them this control over our lives either by electing them or allowed them to be elected by lack of interest in voting.

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders speak to the Nitty-Gritty in all their public statements. Has one, just one, of the herd of Republican presidential wannabes spoken to anything other than what they will do to take away more of our civil and human rights? They are currently in political positions of lower level authority and headed – they hope – for the top. The fact that “The Donald” is leading the pack, and will start his own third party if he doesn’t get his way, is frightening in it’s idiocy. Those particular inmates are currently running this asylum in different levels and areas of this country. Another post on Facebook today compared the upcoming Republican “debate” to the old Hollywood Squares. I consider that insulting to Hollywood Squares.

    OK, Gopper, long past the 8th grade, I again returned to my dictionary for this information: debate, a regulated discussion of proposition between two matched sides. This does not discribe what is coming but…debacle, a great disaster, fits.

  4. Like you JoAnn I often wonder about the variability from day to day in responses to Shiela’s positions here. Does only a few mean not much interest in that problem or not much to add or just general business in the way of taking time to respond.

    As everyone knows I try at least one thought for every day because I find that that helps me to coalesce my thinking and I’m always hoping to learn more from others.

    I’m rarely of the opinion that the topics she chooses are not worth more thought. They all seem important to me and multiple perspectives on them also seems important.

    The variability day to day I guess shall remain a mystery to me.

  5. It’ll heat up after the “debate” tomorrow night. I use the term loosely. You just watch! Gopper (Reppog) will just be full of his little self.

    Truth to tell, when the comments are longer than Sheila’s blog on any particular subject, I am so outta there.

    Bring out the popcorn and cool beverages on Thursday evening and get ready for the show!

  6. Lost in this rhetoric of alleged police abuses is the basic duty of a citizen to comply with laws and to end the ongoing battle against authority. Obviously abuse of authority is a danger in our society, but far worse is the ongoing promotion of anarchy in the name of so-called racism. Further exacerbating this is the reliance upon snippets of information by bees entities owned by entertainment companies whe seek to instill anger or fear to encourage viewers to stay tuned…at least through the commercial break. We are becoming lost as a society by falling prey to those who use media and technology to their own agendas.

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