My Pepper Pike Council Member State of Mind

For residents who've attended Council meetings over the last three or four months, you've had a chance to hear me describe the frustration I feel regarding our City's financial situation and have witnessed any one Council Member's ability, or lack thereof, to improve it.  My colleagues on Council and the Mayor likewise have heard it from me too.  But I've found it very difficult to write about these feelings.

Luckily, because situations like our City's situation are not as unique as they might feel to those laboring within them, there's an ample supply of apt op-eds. So, while none of these items are my words, they resonate with me. In the last few weeks, when people have asked me how I'm doing, how are things going with City Council, I refer them to these pieces (except for the first, which was just published in print today - but I will be):

From "Cassandra, the Ignored Prophet of Doom, Is a Woman for Our Time," (Adam Cohen, New York Times, 4/18/10):
In Greek drama, Cassandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy, was given the gift of prophesy by Apollo, but when she spurned his advances, he ordained that her prophecies would not be believed. There is no such simple answer today for why so many warnings are ignored.

Incompetence often plays a role. So does ideology: one reason Mr. Gramlich, a Democratic nominee [a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors who warned about sub-prime lending practices in 2000], was ignored was that his warnings clashed with the antiregulatory convictions of the Bush administration. In other cases, to borrow Al Gore’s phrase, an “inconvenient truth” imposes burdens that people don’t want or threatens powerful interests. And a key reason Louisiana and the nation did not rally to better protect New Orleans was simply inertia.

Predictions of disaster have always been ignored — that is why there is a Cassandra myth — but it is hard to think of a time when so many major warned-against calamities have occurred in such quick succession. The next time someone is inclined to hold hearings on a disaster, they should go beyond asking why particular warnings were ignored and ask why well-founded warnings are so often ignored.
From "No One is to Blame for Anything" (Frank Rich, New York Times, 4/10/10):
[Former Fed Chairman Alan] Greenspan was testifying to the commission trying to pry loose the still incomplete story of how the American economy was driven at full speed into its iceberg. He was eager to portray himself as an innocent bystander to forces beyond his control. In his rewriting of history, his clout in Washington was so slight that he was ineffectual at “influencing the Congress.” The “roots” of the crisis, he lectured, dated back to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In other words: Wherever the buck stops, you had better believe it’s not within several thousand miles of the Oracle. As he has previously said in defending his inability to spot the colossal bubble, “Everybody missed it — academia, the Federal Reserve, all regulators.”

That, of course, is not true. In last Sunday’s Times, one of those who predicted the bubble’s burst — Michael Burry, an investor chronicled in “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis — told in detail of how Greenspan and others in power “either willfully or ignorantly aided and abetted” the reckless boom and the ensuing bust. But Greenspan is nothing if not a representative leader of his time. We live in a culture where accountability and responsibility are forgotten values. When “mistakes are made” they are always made by someone else.
From "The Art of the Apology" (Paul Vitello, New York Times, 2/19/10):
Every apology is a strategic act, [sic] said Mr. Dorrien [Rev. Gary Dorrien, a professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan]. “People apologize because they want to restore something that’s been broken,” he said.
In other words, it is a work of art.
And while critics and experts may look at it a certain way, everyone knows what they like.
A trenchant analysis of the issue appeared in The New Yorker last year. It was a cartoon: The woman stands over her shoulder-drooped husband. “I don’t want your apology,” she says. “I want you to be sorry.”

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