I want what I want.
While talking with local political candidates during this campaign season, one thing in particular has hit me: Why in the hell would anyone want to put themselves through this process?
Sure, there are people born to the job, and there are others who grow into it. But the more time I spend with local politicians and the more comments I hear from their constituents, the more I realize it takes a special person to put up with the demands of being a part of the government machine.
Here's issue No. 1 that would leave me drooling in my morning oatmeal:
Citizen No. 1: "NO NEW TAXES! NO MORE TAXES! DOWN WITH TAXES! I HATE TAXES!"
Citizen No. 1, two days later: "We deserve better services from our (national, state and local) government. I don't care how much it costs, I want my garbage collected on time, my roads in perfect condition, my property protected, a close eye kept on my neighbor who I'm not so sure about, and a smile on the face of all the local, state and federal workers whose salaries I'm paying. ... Oh, and did I mention that if you even talk about raising my taxes, I'll run you out of office?
I've read so much rhetoric of late from people who claim government is "trying to run the lives of citizens" when it should be "getting out of their business altogether." There's nothing wrong with that concept in theory. But what I've found most such "patriots" are really saying is "you government people with all your silly rules and all those unfair tax levies and your restrictions that you place on what I can do on my own property should just go away ... I'll call you in a few days when I see something I think you should fix."
These are the people who complain about the cops in the doughnut shops until they're in an accident or are victims of a crime and then demand that law enforcement respond to their needs immediately. They're the ones who demand budget cuts in the Public Works department but want the rights-of-way on the roads they travel kept clear at all times.
Officials in places like Lee County, which burst into the spotlight as one of the nation's fastest-growing counties in the 1990s when white flight and the abandonment of nearby public school systems brought new citizens in droves, are frequently the targets of some of the most irrational demands of their new citizens. These folks left places like Albany, which provides high-quality services, for a rural county that had to learn on the run to deal with the sudden influx of people.
And those people, accustomed to top-notch services in their former places of residence, demanded the same in their new homes. They wanted prompt garbage service, law enforcement patrols at frequent intervals, the best quality electrical and utilities services, emergency crews on immediate standby, every pot hole filled and every median mowed ... but don't even think about bringing up the dreaded "T" word.
I personally don't care if you're so anti-tax that you'd oppose any measure that includes the word or you're so sure the government can meet all of your personal needs that you're willing to keep shoveling more and more of your hard-earned money into their coffers so they can take care of you.
You can wear the "tax-and-spend liberal" or the "fiscal conservative" label proudly, and I could not possibly care less. Just remember the limitations that each comes with.
Because the one thing I have learned that's been of value to me during this campaign season is that at some point you have to pick a side. The one thing so many people are having a tough time grasping is the cold hard truth that you just can't have it both ways.
Email Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.