Mayor Pothole


There are many mayors in the country who are not trying to solve all the world’s problems. They are quite satisfied to fix the day-to-day problems raised by the constituents and just keep things moving. In a city with this kind of leader, citizens can be sure their potholes will be quickly fixed and other issues of that kind properly handled.

A key time to measure a mayor is how they perform in a crisis. Effective, re-electable mayors are never caught on vacation in Hawaii when a big snowstorm hits and ties up traffic.  They are riding on snowplows and doing everything possible to let people feel like they are being heard.

Writers and theorists who want to see nobler things accomplished refer to these mayors as “Mayor Pothole.” It is a badge the mayors wear with pride. In some cases they continue that way of working when they move up the political ladder. William Donald Schaefer was this kind of manager whether he was Mayor of Baltimore or Governor of Maryland.

Although it is not exciting, this kind of manager is often reelected for a simple reason. Voters don’t want to have to think about government anymore than they want to think about running water or their car. The public has bigger concerns, family, job, etc. When they get up in the morning to go to work, they want their shower to have hot water and they just want their car to get where they’re going.

When it is time to replace their car, they think about cars for a bit and may get a little excited about it. There are new features or bells and whistles. The car may be a little sportier. It is fun for a while.  But before long, the car goes back to just being a way to get somewhere.

It is frustrating to replace a car that isn’t working well and find that your new one is not doing the job.  Either it won’t carry something you need, or it doesn’t even run well. Sometimes you buy a sporty car and wish you still had a family car with more room.

The results of the last election are like trying to replace a car with something more reliable and finding your car problems aren’t fixed.  For many voters, George Bush had shown himself unreliable. Some were opposed to the wars he was fighting. Others were concerned about border security. Everyone was worried when the economy ran into serious trouble.

Barack Obama seemed, to many people, to be a cool, competent person who could get things back on track. We needed someone to fix the problems and he would be the “shiny new car” to replace the old “bush vehicle” that seemed to not be working so well. Some people were hesitant because he had never served in an elected political job as a manager (mayor/governor) but George Bush had and we were frustrated with him.

There are times when a nation wants and needs a forceful leader with a bold vision. Lincoln and the Civil War, FDR and the Depression and World War II are primary cases. But, history can be cruel when the person and the moment clash.

President Obama wanted to be an historic President who could alter the direction and viewpoint of the country. It is his misfortune to be in office at a time when the country wants somebody who can just fix the problems and get things moving.

The clash is obvious when every problem becomes a reason to enact some program or other on his wish list. His answer for a struggling economy was a massive rewrite of American health care. He is now saying the Gulf Oil Spill shows we need to enact the “Cap and Trade” environmental program. The nation knows he was pushing the legislation before the oil spill and suspects he knows as well as we do that it won’t solve the problem.

The public is looking for something the “mayor potholes” of the world show all the time. That word is “competence.” It would be nice to have a Mayor Pothole in the White House these days.

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Posted in History, Leadership, Presidency

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