From the Editors: Golden Gloves Issue

Category:  From the Editors
Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 at 11:02 AM

Despite trying times, Americans still aren’t afraid of dreaming big. But a recent poll indicates they think those big ideas are best developed and implemented on smaller levels — not the grand ones of yesteryear.

According to a recent article published on TheAtlantic.com, “Americans want big, innovative ideas,” but what’s changed in recent times is that they now think these ideas should, as Nancy Cook reports, “come from local leaders, businesses, and institutions.”

The poll Cook cites is the 22nd Heartland Monitor poll, sponsored by Allstate and National Journal, which revealed that more people now than ever favor state and local institutions as problem-addressers and solvers over the federal government when it comes to tackling the nation’s economic and social challenges.

What’s more, 71 percent of those surveyed reported that they would “prefer local institutions to try out new ideas, even if the outcome may be uncertain,” with only one-fifth saying they favor the “tried and tested ideas and solutions.”

That is, the majority of us would rather take a risk and see an idea struggle or fail than maintain the status quo — or: play it safe. For many Americans, the prospect of possibility now outweighs the security of sticking to the norm, and rather than showing up on the Mall at Washington, D.C. seeking federal aid and support, we’re knocking on our neighbors’ doors and looking inward through the lense of collaboration.

According to the Heartland Monitor Poll, nearly one-third of Americans credit businesses with improving their local region within the last ten years, while another third cited community groups, with a mere 15 percent giving the credit to government policies for making their lives better.

The contemporary notion of turning away from soliciting ideas on the federal level and instead turning inward towards local homegrown innovation and solutions reaffirms the lecture Vice President of the Brookings Institution Bruce Katz gave last November at the Jefferson Educational Society. When he presented his findings from his seminal work, The Metropolitan Revolution, in short, he said, the federal government isn’t in the business of saving cities; rather, he emphasized, that success in the 21st Century lies in the hands of cities themselves.

More importantly, when asked during a Q&A session that followed the presentation what could shock Erie out of its risk adverse stasis, he said that taking no risks would be the biggest risk any city could take.

Cook, further reporting on the Heartland Monitor poll in the National Journal, notes perception of proximity to problems.

“Sixty-nine percent of those polled said that state and local institutions — from governments to businesses to community groups and volunteers — offer the best new ideas because they were closer to the problems, more adaptable, and had a greater stake in finding solutions.”

So if we truly want to take risks because we see our survival based on these realities — and are looking to those both closest to us and to the challenges that lie ahead to address our progress — we need now more than ever to promote and support vigorous open dialogue and debate backed by research and well-informed, calculated opinions open to compromise. What Erie needs even more than that is for more than just one-fifth of the electorate to show up at the polls for this May’s Primary Elections.

Some might excuse low-voter turnout because this is an “off-year,” with no “big” elections mattering on grandscales. But if the Heartland Monitor poll accurately reflects the new vision Americans have of where we are turning to get our answers, local races are where we find our doers, our problem solvers, our visionaries, and our ideas. We shouldn’t need a governor’s or president’s race to lure us to the polls.

The desire to have the best minds with the brightest ideas within our county helming the ship, steering us through the challenges and charting us for success should be all the convincing we need — lest we find ourselves okay with settling for the status quo.

Erie Reader: Vol. 7, No. 10
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