The Strength of Our Democracy is in Our Communities

November 7, 2018

Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger, GMA President

This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
B y the time you read this in the November edition of Georgia’s Cities, the 2018 mid-term elections will be over. Your feelings about the results of the Nov. 6 elections will undoubtedly depend on your political affiliation. You may be pleased about the results, or you may not. Regardless of your feelings about a particular outcome, it’s hard to ignore the fact many people feel our political divisions are deeper and wider than ever before.
Between negative campaigning, the ongoing and often bitter partisan divide over numerous policy issues, along with the increasing lack of trust in those institutions that are foundational to our shared civic life, many believe we’re truly at a crossroads. We have been through difficult times before, however, and emerged understanding more about ourselves and each other.
I’m not going to suggest to you how you should feel about any election result or the current state of our politics. I do want to share with you something that isn’t #FakeNews, can’t be labeled as #AlternativeFacts, and is neither liberal nor conservative dogma. It’s pretty simple, really, and it’s this…regardless of who wins this year’s state or federal elections, or which party is in power, the fundamental work of Georgia’s cities and city officials remains the same.
That’s a good thing.
While the issues debated at the state and national level in Atlanta or Washington, D.C. are very important and certainly impact our cities, it is in our neighborhoods and communities where we work, live and play. You see, the local level is where we’ll find those things that bind us together, and where the social capital of our nation can be replenished and nurtured.
You may wonder what any of this means. It can mean whatever you wish. We, as city officials, can continue doing what we’ve always done and simply carry on. I think it befits us, however, to realize that the strength of our de­mocracy is found in what we see when we walk down our streets and engage with those people and institutions that define our communities.
So, what’s the secret sauce for local governance? Collaboration based on building relationships and solving problems in good faith. Not to brag, but officials in cities and counties tend to be better at this than our friends at the state and national level.
I doubt that any of us ran for elected office thinking that what we do at the local level is the keystone to our country’s nearly 250-year old ex­periment in democracy, but it is. Our efforts to provide the fertile ground required to create new jobs, deliver clean water and a safe environment through infrastructure investments, curb crime, reduce homelessness and poverty, and generally create a high quality-of-life, are all necessary for our nation to prosper.
Whether you are happy with the current state of our politics or not, let’s take heart, have hope and continue to build our cities, remembering that civility, kindness and inclusion are fundamental building blocks to building strong communities.
Now is the time for us to provide the example of “being in it together” that our nation needs to see.

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