Thursday, September 10

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Truth

If happiness is so valuable (as our founders apparently felt it was to put it in the Declaration of Independence), it must be because it allows us to seek our truths. This is a good thing as long as these truths include facts, as well as feelings. One of the main reasons I began to blog was because I always felt that facts needed to be brought into arguments where feelings and emotions tended to get in the way of making good decisions.

Here are three issues where facts and feelings have gotten muddied: education, health care, and public safety. I've written a fair amount about health care as of late and was mostly pleased to see the President take a measured approach to making his pitch for 95% or "near universal" health care. I was surprised, as I imagine most Americans were to hear Rep. Joe Wilson shout "You lie" when the President was speaking about his conviction that his plan would not cover illegal immigrants to both Houses last night.

Throughout the summer recess a lot of lies have been spread about health care or more accurately health insurance reform. There is no need for me to rehash these. However, it seems to me that now that the planks of Obama's plan are outlined, a reasonable discussion of the facts should help to make a change to our broken system, allow most people to have basic care, and to reduce the long-term overall costs of health care. Again, the devil is always in the details (as members of the Houses reflected in their chuckling at the President's acknowledgment of this fact).

Ultimately, any change comes with compromise and consultation. In reflecting on a couple of issues that are going on in my community about education reform and neighborhood safety reform, it is clear that facts need to be weighed so that good decisions can be made.

With regard to the outcome of the school board election where the message seemed to be fix what is broken in an equitable, transparent fashion, the first order of business should be the naming a new school board president. Given the contentious nature of the meetings and public hearings, it is clear that the board will benefit from having a new voice as it's tacit leader. The next leader should have a consensus building ability and the patience to weigh both the facts presented in public input with those of consultants about redistricting, the Roosevelt repurposing issue and additional school facilities, and balancing the school's budget. The new leader should also have the independence to question the school superintendent and staff's recommendations.

With regard to the southeast Iowa City residents' concerns regarding the safety of their neighborhood, it would be good to balance the facts of crime statistics with the factual efforts of neighbors work amongst themselves to come up with solutions that aid community building. I readily agree and support that city resources should be made available to the residents in the area to improve conditions there, e.g., like making inclusionary zoning a mandatory tool to spread low-income housing out better in the city and police to respond to complaints. However, I disagree that additional laws are needed to deal with the safety concerns, as they can have a chilling effect on overall relations and exacerbate the wound that has been festering due to a lack of understanding and respect between members in that part of the community.

Just as Congress was waiting for the President to offer his calculated plan, the city should wait for the community to offer its plan for improving relations. To parents in the school district who are concerned about how schools will be affected by school district decisions, come up with a plan.

Feelings are easy, truth is harder to find. Fact finding is essential and collaboration key to solutions that work. Who knows, it might even lead to happiness or at the least "to form a more perfect Union."

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