Ignore government’s cries of 'wolf!’ - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Ignore government’s cries of 'wolf!’

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Posted: Saturday, February 28, 2009 8:12 pm | Updated: 3:04 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Linda Turley-Hansen: There’s a term used in many newsrooms to describe stories that keep coming back. It reflects events in which the facts remain the same, only the names change. They call them “Rolodex stories.”

There’s a term used in many newsrooms to describe stories that keep coming back. It reflects events in which the facts remain the same, only the names change. They call them “Rolodex stories.”

They represent the cycle of society, which proves we never, ever learn from past generations or administrations or crime and scandal, or the fact that economic cycles are, well — they’re cycles.

I get a gag reflex when state budget cuts, and the commotion that follows, show up again in the headlines. Here we are again with a stressed state treasury. It’s true, no one wants to lose their allowance, and the reasons are always good ones.

However, every household and business have limitations. And they hurt.

Backing out of our comfort zones feels like those tire shredders at the entry of some parking lots. They rip the guts out of our wheels and it takes some doing to get going again.

Sometimes the damage lasts for the life of the vehicle.

Arizona’s current crisis requires the same, and folks will suffer. Then, on cue, elected positions become threatened. I see that madam governor and the Legislature are taking shots over their tough stance on the cuts. They, in return, are accusing some agency heads of strategically slashing services in order to generate pity for their causes. I know first hand that such things go on.

Some years ago, I was in a position at Maricopa County to see how agency directors manipulate not only those they answer to the elected positions, but also public emotion. As the director of the public information office, I was handling an outcry over slashed budgets. One department head reported he would be closing down critical services due to the funding shortage. It caused a real hullabaloo.

In my naive effort to ease the hysteria, I discussed the issue with that director and suggested a news conference to assure the public that the services would be protected; that such steps would be his very last option. He saw my sincerity and eventually suggested I sit down. He had “something to explain to me.”

With a mix of amusement and embarrassment, he detailed that he had no intention of shutting those services down, but that he was simply playing the public and those responsible for cutting his budget. He was using the clout of fear to spin the crisis and sway decision makers who were besieged by public outrage.

Most citizens know all about this; others are as naive as I was. The game is to “cry wolf.” It’s manipulation of public trust. You and I are the pawns. It’s politics plain and simple. No political party is clean. And, further, government employees who regularly do the bidding for politicians make situational ethics part of their daily business. It’s their job security.

That said, it always needs to be acknowledged that many government employees are praise worthy and their services are vitally important, but their colleagues political gaming jeopardizes everyone.

On a national level, all of the above is repeated on a mega scale. Note the fright in the last few weeks (and last summer) to get the stimulus bill passed so quickly. What’s astounding, deplorable and unfathomable is the media and a vast array of citizens pretend the games are real. And, then the predictable: perception becomes our world.

The question is: Can we back out of this mess without taking down the very foundation of the nation and Arizona, especially when the game players are so good at what they do and the citizenry is willing to be deceived?

Linda Turley-Hansen is a syndicated columnist and former veteran Phoenix television news anchor who lives in the East Valley. She can be reached by e-mail at letters@lindastake.com.

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