Friday, June 30, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Council

Reciprocity at work here, echoing Fester's sentiments on reducing City Council, with a slightly different take.

Being a bureaucratic functionary of the Government, I am inherently suspicious of politicians. Bureaucrats and Politicians have different mindsets; one is supposed to be apolitical and impartial, the other is by definition political and partisan. I get nervous when Politicians attempt to micromanage the Bureaucratic process, especially when they micromanage with the intent of advancing particular interests rather than broad goals and policies. Good governance does not necessarily equal good politics. Good politics rewards ambition; good governance rewards farsightedness. Besides, politics makes me want to spend hours in the bath, scraping the filth off.

Anyway, one of the common symptoms pointed out of Pittsburgh's decline is the loss of talent across the board. I would assume that this would also include those in leadership positions. So, logically, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel here with our political leaders, and, let's face it, we're not the sharpest bulb in the drawer.

Now, my point is that with a larger council, we're actually both letting ambition counteract ambition AND getting a larger pool of the "talent" that is available. More people fighting amongst themselves over stupid stuff means less time spent on screwing us over. More people on Council means a higher probability that a "talented" person will fill one of the slots. So it would therefore be necessary to keep Council larger.

This is, of course, all academic bullshit: Pittsburgh City Council, in reality, does not follow the principles laid down in the Federalist Papers. Ambition, in this case, enhances ambition. "Talent" or "Statesmanship"* or "Political arete" is not the factor most of the electorate uses when making a decision. More likely, the voters choose candidates that they are familiar with or, more importantly, have brought tangible benefits to the individual voters. Candidates are fractured along district lines, with various degrees of political capital.

Like, d'uh, right?

So, and this is important because it concerns you, the voter: it doesn't matter how small you make Council. Sure, a reduction in size will save you some money in salary, but it won't make them smarter. The way that the system is currently set up, heavily weighted towards incumbents and those with money and influence, Council will pretty much always be a three ring circus.

Which would make public comment time the freak show, I suppose.

* A Statesman is just a dead Politician; Lord knows we need more Statesmen.

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