Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

No level of government has more impact on daily life than local government. That’s why my colleagues and I at Cranberry Township are passionate about pushing the limits of excellence to provide the best possible services to our residents and customers. However, being well-served is not a passive achievement; it is a collective undertaking. Through this blog, we offer our personal reflections on that assignment. And we hope it will help engage you in joining us on that same collaborative mission.

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Jul 05

Dysfunctional government

Posted on July 5, 2011 at 12:39 PM by Jerry Andree

There’s been a lot of press lately about Congress being broken, paralyzed, and mired in partisan acrimony. Sadly, I’m convinced that it’s true. Even more regrettable, though, is that the paralysis is not just limited to Washington; it has been spreading throughout the body politic. So in addition to a federal government stuck in its own rancor, we also have state governments unable to address critical policy issues and local governments incapable of dealing with one another or their own constituents.

I just got back from a professional development seminar where a major theme was “how to manage in a dysfunctional government.” It was depressing. But, at the same time, I felt lucky not to have experienced that here. Cranberry Township is blessed with a culture which does not tolerate the sorts of disrespectful, in-your-face behavior that we see all around us. Instead, it accepts that while people have legitimately different views, consensus is essential to acting in the best interests of our residents and taxpayers.

Historically, Cranberry’s Board has had both Democrat and Republican Supervisors. But when they meet to conduct the people’s business, party lines don’t seem to matter. Cranberry never had a history of strong political party machines or operatives, so when the Supervisors meet, political ideologies as well as personal egos get checked at the door. In their place, the Board focuses on doing the business of the people in a respectful, professional manner.

That shouldn’t be remarkable; after all, it’s what they were elected to do. But they’re surrounded by dysfunctional behavior at every level of government, and many people now consider political grandstanding at the expense of everyone else to be the norm for elected officials. It shouldn’t be; it’s a huge disservice to residents and taxpayers and it is definitely not the norm here. Perhaps that’s why Cranberry is widely seen as one of the most desirable communities in the region.

But it could happen here. And one way that could happen is if we were to take our functional local government for granted, assume that civility in public discourse is normal, and fail to appreciate what we have. It’s important for our elected officials to know that Cranberry residents recognize that good government and respectful debate are rare and valuable assets. And maybe someday, the results of their good work might even inspire our state and federal counterparts to behave in a similar manner.

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