Oh, You Thought the Mayor Was Supposed to Be Able to Run the City?

Let’s be fair, here:  Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier was a vocal supporter of unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Providence Michael Solomon, and his recent constituent letter (via Dan McGowan) criticizing that race’s victor, Jorge Elorza, is ultimately a political document.  But still:

… these actions raise serious questions about the current year’s budget.  Instead of reducing the accumulated deficit by $3.2 million, the administration increased it by $5 million to a new level of $13.7 million.  It is far from clear that the administration will meet this year’s deficit reduction requirement of $4.3 million, given that the current year began $1.5 million in the red and given the failures we learned about last week in the areas of understanding and managing the budget.

Anybody who pays attention in their own city or town should know that the overlapping area of local politics and budgets can be very complicated, and outside commentary ought to come behind a shield of caveats and disclaimers.  Be that as it may, it’s fair to wonder what in Elorza’s background ever gave anybody a belief that he had the experience to run a good-sized city.  One can be impressed by the career turnaround of a 39-year-old who admits that he barely graduated from high school and still question whether he should be the chief executive of an organization with a three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar budget.

We seem to have forgotten, in this country, that we elect people to office in order to do a job, not because they fit the profile that we want on the “about us” page of the government’s Web site.  Life experience and an interest in policy might make for a good legislator, and experience with the law might be sufficient for a judge, but running an organization requires a different skill set.

Now, one could say, as Patrick Laverty did, that an election comes down to a choice between actual people on the ballot, but that’s only an indication that our entire political system is not working.  Multiple factors contribute to our broken system, but I’d argue that the biggest one is simply the size and scope of our government and its activities.  There’s too much incentive for people to get into government for all the wrong reasons (and to make politics painful for people who get into it for the right reasons), and too many of society’s issues are resolved through government for voters to make informed decisions based primarily on such basics as being able to develop and manage to a budget.

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