On August 5, 2011, Standard & Poor lowered the U.S. debt rating saying, “The downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges.”
On November 9, just three months later, our Jefferson County filed the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy in history after an agreement among elected officials and investors to refinance $3.1 billion in sewer bonds fell apart.
Both are part of the same problem.
This is not a profound observation, since everyone who is half way paying attention sees what is happening.
Ever since government districts were gerrymandered to make them homogeneous, there has been no incentive for people with differing views to talk to one another.
The intent, I assume, was to allow minorities to have a direct voice in government and those are pure intentions. But the unintended consequences have been profound and ultimately deadly.
Now Republican and Democratic representatives are ONLY accountable to their electorate who look and think exactly as they do. No one has to be concerned about the betterment or survival of our country—it’s all about pleasing the folks who elected you.
It’s the same with our Birmingham region, but our problems are magnified by the horrific number of government entities. (Birmingham’s 9 City Councilors represent 9 districts; 5 County Commissioners represent 5 districts; and 37 municipalities represent 37 cities).
I recently had a conversation with a County Commission who used to represent Jefferson County before the change to the five district system. He told me how he used to meet regularly with people from all over the county—people who of all demographics and income levels. He had to win approval from as many Jefferson County citizens as possible to win his election.
Not so much anymore—all the politician has to do today is please the folks in his voting district. He can disregard everyone else.
The result –America barrels towards bankruptcy.
Us folks in Jefferson County–we are already there.
David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.
David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).