Blog: Jim Rasor

The case of City Government v. Business Interests is now closed. For the region to flourish again, attorney and Royal Oak City Commissioner Jim Rasor knows that both parties need to be on the same side. This week he offers up his 2020 vision for the region.

Post 2: The Divide of Partisanship

The first "big innovative idea" for our region is the notion that the majority of people of this region are ready to abandon long standing polarization and isolation and embrace regional cooperation and partnerships. Major roadblocks in transportation, infrastructure and employment can be broken if our leaders will walk away from gamesmanship and sit down at the table and work it out for the good for everyone. In other words, if our leaders will lead, instead of posture, we can move away from the past and actually get something done.

That's a big IF though, as posturing wins elections by promoting large allegedly "moral" issues that make voters "feel" like someone is "fighting for their way of life". Contrast that with actual leadership, which requires intelligent discussion of tough issues requiring sacrifice, hard work and compromise, with a benefit to be realized in the future.  

Partisanship is the immediate gratification of a fast paced football game.  Good government, on the other hand, is the slow and steady machinery of identifying issues, examining facts, and designing and implementing policy.  Because it is completely natural and human for people to want to polarize and team up by race, economics, or religion, partisanship is easy.  It is almost an instinctive reflex, and we are very good at it. We all want to be on the winning team, cheer on our victorious leaders, and crush an enemy.

Unfortunately, our partisan urges mask our intellect, because we know that in whatever part of the demographic we fit racially, economically, and location and lifestyle-wise, we are all on the SAME TEAM going in the same direction in southeastern Michigan. Whether we are going to a brighter future or off a cliff is entirely up to us, and our leaders. It is our leaders' responsibility to encourage cooperation and teamwork and overcome our instinctual partisan desires.  That's not easy, but it's more productive. It will take a major re-think of what we do to accomplish these goals. As leaders, we have to preach the new reality of Good Government---cooperation, consolidation, and teamwork, if we are going to have a future.

We've been through a lot as a region. In my life, we've been through riots, suburban sprawl, stagflation, high interest rates, high deficits, reckless spending, unnecessary wars, and the globalization of industrial jobs which has laid waste to our economy's central tenet: That one person with a high school education can support a family, a house, two cars, a place up north, and a garage full of toys, all with a 75 percent pension and no-deductible health insurance. Now, entire families labor just to provide the basics of food and shelter. Our local economy is strained past the breaking point, our infrastructure is crumbling, our workers are idle.

But from what I see, this new generation is pragmatic, willing to take risks, and able to see through the posturing to the goal. Our generation, in our 40s, and those younger than us, don't harbor the same suspicion and animosity towards our urban brothers that our parents' did. In fact, we really like the urban nature of it all. To us, mass transit is what cities have, diversity is what makes life interesting, and we like old buildings, urban living, and a great restaurant or bar on every corner. We dance when we like the music.

More importantly, we are ready for leaders to guide us in the reality of cooperation, consolidation, and teamwork. That's why in Royal Oak, we are remaking our government in Royal Oak to do more with less. We are enlisting the cooperation of our unions to work within our financial constraints, reorganizing our City Hall departments, and essentially re-designing our government around our customers. We have much less to work with financially, and the next several years will be rough. But every day, entrepreneurs and established businesses bring us their brilliant business ideas and we work with them to bring them to reality.