Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Really Hard Problem

A while back I wrote about the limited scope of city government-- police and fire, water and sewer, zoning and planning, roads, etc. I went on to say you had to have a really big ego to try to do something at the national level. Today I saw a presentation which has caused me to question that thinking. Our last governor, John Kitzhaber, came to Hood River to promote the "Archimedes Movement," which is his attempt to deal with our health care problem. He gave a fascinating 30 minute talk on the nature of the problem and the possible form of a solution. He managed to explain the health care crisis in the same way I have tried to talk about local problems like our budget. He is trying to find a non-partisan solution to a non-partisan problem.

I could not do justice to his exposition, but fortunately there is a DVD available locally. Mosier's own Suzi Conklin, former owner of the Wildflower Restaurant, is our local Archimedes Movement coordinator. She will be arranging local viewings of the video. I will be hosting one soon, or you can contact her to get one in your neighborhood.

I don't know Dr. Kitzhaber, but I can say for sure that Suzi does not have a really big ego. Yet she is willing to tackle an important and complex national issue, starting locally. I think I need to eat my words. A little idealism can substitute for a lot of ego.

What does this have to do with city politics? Take a look at our general fund budget. 62% pays for city employees (police, fire, city staff). One-third of that amount, or more than 20% of our general fund goes to benefits-- mostly health insurance. As a city council member there is little I will be able do to change this equation, but I will sure be rooting for Suzi and Dr. Kitzhaber as they try to bring some rationality to this part of our city budget.


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