When it comes to how government operates, the past couple of weeks have offered plenty of good news-bad news examples.
The bad news has dominated national headlines: the federal shutdown. It’s too bad our elected officials in Washington, D.C., aren’t acting on what most citizens are saying, which is: End this foolishness, now. Find a solution, which is what you were elected to do. Let federal employees do what they were hired to do, which is work.
Real people, including some in Alaska, are being hurt by the shutdown, not to mention the damaging effects of the shutdown on the nation’s economy, image and credibility. If nothing else, the impasse shows that partisan politics is not good for citizens. What this country needs — sooner rather than later — is some across-the-aisle bipartisanship and statesmanship. Effective leaders know how to compromise. The solution to the impasse shouldn’t be based on political party ideologies, but on what’s best for the citizens of this country. Instead of looking for wins for their party, elected officials should be working toward wins for their constituents. Do Congress and the White House really need to be reminded of that?
The good news about government was revealed in the Oct. 1 municipal election, which dispelled some myths. The outcome of the Homer City Council race showed that those new to the political scene do have a chance at winning. In his first run for public office, Gus VanDyke led the pack of four candidates for two council seats and was elected. Incumbent Bryan Zak pulled ahead of Corbin Arno, also new to the political scene, and was re-elected by just 10 votes.
While Justin Arnold finished in fourth place, he also can count an Election Day victory. Arnold was the force behind the initiative to repeal Homer’s ban on certain plastic bags. The majority of voters agreed with him. The repeal will go into effect when the Homer City Council certifies the election on Oct. 14, and retailers can once again provide customers with the plastic shopping bags.
But as Arnold pointed out in his campaign his main objection to the bag ban was philosophical. “I’m not balloting for the bags so much as I’m balloting against the government telling us not to use them,” he said.
This is the point where Homer can demonstrate the finer points of compromise. The vote doesn’t show “a love affair with plastic bags,” as council member David Lewis put it. Lewis sponsored the bag-ban ordinance with council member Beau Burgess. Rather, it shows an independent spirit that rebels against being told what to do.
So, although Homer residents may disagree on the best way to reduce their use of plastic, we think most agree that they need to do so. Without a bag ban in place, Homer residents can — and we hope they will — continue to use their own bags when shopping. Businesses can help out — voluntarily — by not offering the once banned bags. There are other options, including, as one store does, charging customers for paper bags.
We’ve debated the right thing to do, now let’s do it — without having to be told. That would really be a citizen-led democracy in action — and more good news.