Karl Douglass: Elections bring time to reflect

March 29, 2014 

I like living in Columbus. I realize the city is far from perfect, but for the lifestyle my family and I want to have, Columbus fits us.

Some people see the city differently.

Through their eyes, Columbus is troubled. Some in the community assert that racism is a major problem. Others suggest that crime is out of control. Another group believes that the city is on the verge of financial ruin. All of these perspectives have some basis in truth.

But none of them represent the whole truth.

Everyone is entitled to their own take on the world in which they live. Each of us has the option to choose a view that is optimistic, pessimistic or realistic.

I choose to take a view of Columbus that is pragmatic. It is awesome when the choices facing our community break down into one option that is clearly good and another that is clearly bad. Most times, though, the choice is between two options that both have negatives. In those cases, the goal for our community -- more specifically, the people we choose to represent us -- is to determine the option that does the least amount of harm to the largest number of people.

In a lot of respects, the people who represent, and have represented, us have made pragmatic choices that have benefited the bulk of our community. It is the cumulative and measurable impact of those pragmatic choices over the years that make my family and me proud to call Columbus home. Choices that have kept parks open and vibrant. Choices that have kept property taxes reasonable. Choices that lead to the revitalization of the river and downtown. Choices that made it possible to build better school facilities.

But we are not naïve enough to believe that every decision made, even the pragmatic ones, has done the least harm to the largest number of people. Every engaged citizen can point to certain decisions made by our local elected leadership that benefitted just a few. In spite of the best explanation about how a decision that benefits a few will ultimately make life better for everyone in town, history suggests that is seldom the case. Not never, but definitely rarely. It has been that way since man formed the first government.

So, as we prepare for the local elections in May, each of us needs to ask ourselves, "Do I like living in Columbus?" Regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, the next question is "Why?" Why you feel the way you feel is in a very real way tied to who you choose to make decisions about our community.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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