American life is filled with situations that prompt citizens to turn to their elected representatives for solutions.
In turn, it behooves elected officials to address constituent concerns. Our appreciation goes to the many dedicated elected officials who can and do act to achieve results. That includes — as we’ve seen locally — elected officials from local, state and federal jurisdictions who have worked together over periods of years on projects to benefit the Ketchikan area.
But it’s often the case that actual solutions are beyond the ability of elected officials to deliver.
There can be many good reasons for this. Perhaps the solution is outside of their jurisdiction or legal authority. Perhaps achieving it would require unachievable amounts of time, effort or other resources — including financial and political capital.
Whatever the reason, most elected officials still want to be seen as at least doing something.
Occasionally, that something veers into the realm of stunts, usually accompanied by big announcements highlighting the “action” being taken. The filing or joining of lawsuits; the introduction of legislation.
That’s not to say that many legal actions, legislative actions or resolutions aren’t proper and/or valuable. Just that some — often identifiable by noise of their arrival — are far more for show than go.
Ultimately, it’s counterproductive. The introduction of no-chance legal action or legislation doomed to die in committee raises false hope while wasting money and valuable time. The proposer benefits from the brief flash of publicity — the illusion of real action — while the real solution remains as distant as ever.
At some point, John Q. Public remembers the fanfare and thinks, “Hey, that lawsuit/legislation was supposed to solve this problem. What happened?”
Well, the lawsuit got tossed and the legislation never made it out of committee. Repeat that cycle again and again, and watch as the distrust and disillusionment set in.
This isn’t new. It’s one of the oldest ploys in the political playbook, largely because it’s viewed as politically effective. But we would encourage our elected officials to spend their time and effort focused on achieving real solutions, not illusions.