It’s tough making difficult decisions.
Cities in Maine have been struggling this year ever since the economy and state government ate up a big hunk of their revenue. That has left the elected folks with some tough decisions. They had to choose higher property taxes — in a state with historically high property taxes to begin with — or they had to cut services that their constituents love and layoff decent, hardworking city staffers.
In the end, most Maine cities did a little of both. Taxes went up a bit and a few city staffers went home for the last time. The streets won’t get plowed as quickly next winter, some frills like fireworks are going away. It may take bit longer to answer phone calls or respond to complaints and some potholes will survive the summer paving season.
It was tough work and many agonized over the process. They didn’t want to be the ones to raise taxes or to fire people just to balance the budget.
For some, the tax increases were too much and they couldn’t support that. Others didn’t like that certain services were cut. They voted against the budget, too.
But most found a middle ground, as uncomfortable as it was. It’s called a compromise.
But not everyone’s up for a compromise. It’s tough and can be used against a politician. Frequently, compromise pisses everyone off. People are mad that their taxes went up at all and their services are still getting cut. Nobody wins.
Invariably some folks get elected that refuse to compromise. They don’t have any ideas, they just argue against all of it. Don’ t raise taxes. Don’t cut this service, don’t cut that service. What service should we cut? I don’ t know, but not those.
Luckily, everyone else ignores them. The final vote comes and passes with just enough support. Despite not having contributed a thing or suggested a single way to improve the process, they take a principled stand against the compromise. Everyone should have tried harder, they say wringing the hands. It’s not enough or it’s too much. No matter, they’re dead set against it.
The thing is, their votes never matter. If there was any chance the vote was going to be close enough for them to change things, there would have been no compromise. And if they felt their vote would actually change things and force more work, they’ll vote with the majority, but that’s a rare occurrence.
Where the vote would be otherwise unanimous, they always seem to be the sole dissenter, shrewdly wagging their fingers and clucking their tongues. They seem to a make a political career out of not doing anything but acting like they’ve made a difference. Pretending.
Which, it turns out, is much easier than making a difficult decision.