10 August 2007

Failure to Focus

Craig Westover:
Simply raising the gas tax and generating more money for roads and bridges won't change the values and processes that brought about neglect of the infrastructure. Following form, after a special session the Legislature will declare "mission accomplished" with the passage of a gas tax, delegate the "mundane" details of infrastructure maintenance to MnDOT (which legislators will criticize for some future failure) and then move on to the issues that captivate the collective imagination: (Growth and Justice president Dane) Smith's litany of education, new transit, health care and environmental quality suffices as example.

Seriously setting priorities starts not with a list of issues, but with the way we think about government's role. It requires understanding the processes and values at work in the bureaucracy and how they affect government's capability to address specific problems. Government is very good at some things and very poor at others. Trying harder with more funding won't necessarily make it better at activities in conflict with bureaucracy's fundamental processes and values.
The day we went from funding "need to have" and started funding "nice to have" is the day we set in motiin the events that brought down that rusty bridge.

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