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Wanted: Local Solutions and Leadership

April 8, 2015  |  Keith Brady, GMA President
Keith Brady
I’m one of those individuals that believe in local control and home rule. I believe local institutions and individuals are best suited to solve local issues and that a top-down, one one-size-fits-all approach to problem solving and governance simply doesn’t work. Not surprisingly, a recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll confirms that this sentiment is shared by many.
 
The core take-away from the Heartland Monitor poll is this: people, regardless of their demographic or socioeconomic standing, or whether they live in large cities, suburbs, or small rural towns, are looking locally for those ideas and solutions that “improves quality-of-life for themselves and their communities.”
 
Another insight from the poll is that Americans want their local institutions (local governments, businesses, and community groups) to address local challenges and opportunities by trying “bold and innovative” solutions, even if the outcome is uncertain. Frustrated with the federal government and its inability to solve big problems, there is an increased desire to see and experience positive change at the local level.
 
I find it reassuring to know that most people want us to succeed at doing those things that are necessary to enhance the quality-of-life of our communities. Regardless of what we may hear from those that loathe any sort of government activity (I’m not referring to those that bring legitimate concerns and criticisms to the table), our job as stewards of our communities is to implement the initiatives that make those hopes become a reality. All this must be done, of course, in a transparent fashion and within the constraints of local economic conditions, state and federal law.
 
I believe most of Georgia’s local leaders are meeting those expectations. While there are numerous metrics we could use to measure this, I think the fact that the vast majority of SPLOST and ESPLOST referendums pass, as they did again last month, makes the case quite well. Georgia’s local leaders have a history of following through on what was promised and have built a level of trust based upon their actions and their accountability.
 
Success in our communities, however, isn’t solely up to those of us in local government, nor should it be. The same poll made it clear that while “localism” is the key to addressing our issues, the success and active engagement of community groups, local business and volunteers is desired and needed.
 
The poll also indicates that the health of the local economy and opportunities for young adults is of concern. In fact, half of the respondents said they wouldn’t recommend their community to those that live outside their area. It’s clear we still have work to do.
 
Through the years we’ve lamented the fact that cities haven’t always been embraced as strategic assets in tackling our common problems. I’m hopeful that perception may be changing. And I’m encouraged that the people that elected us to office believe, as we do, that the solutions to the issues we face can and should be found locally.
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