Ehlers among leaders who exceed the norm

March 8, 2010
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As the Michigan Senate late last month approved legislation to end pension benefits for elected officials, legislators were given 15-second sound bites from both Republicans and Democrats. (Though it should be noted here that the bill introduced by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, has a similar companion in the State House, introduced by Dian Slavens, D-Canton Township.) Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop was most eloquent.

While the minority party in the Senate opined that the loss of such benefits would equal a loss of good-quality candidates for office and would put Michigan on the downside of attracting talent, Bishop rightfully took offense. Bishop was given the high road to emphasize that those who are compelled as office seekers do so out of civic pride and desire to serve. Political office isn’t a “right,” a “career” or a throne of power.

Therein lies the way in which Michigan voters must discern any real impact by candidates, even as the list of office seekers seems to double by the week.

The surprising announcement in February from U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers that he will not seek re-election was followed in days by the same announcement from Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who decried the “upside down, hyper-partisan world of Washington, D.C."

Ehlers exemplifies Bishop’s definition of an office seeker and a gentleman, and the Business Journal encourages Ehlers’ ability to bring that influence to bear, not only in the Grand Rapids region but statewide.

The incivility that eschews teamwork, compromise, thoughtful debate and creative ideas leaves all constituents in the lock of a no-man’s land, a purgatory, a paralysis. To the contrary, compromise, though sometimes distasteful, offers continued ability and opportunity.

We need not list here the many symptoms of the morass in which this state and nation finds itself. The inability of its leaders to provide solutions for economic health is the result of a death grip of unrelenting paralysis. It is not survivable.

It is uniqueness that is celebrated as part of a creative class, and it is creativity that breaks down the sides of the boxes of conformity. It is in learning and continued education that new solutions to old problems are found. The economic future of this state depends on that.

Even as candidates stand in the quicksand of current problems, the sound bites would have the electorate believe that quicksand can become solid ground, when, in fact, candidates must focus instead on the emerging patterns and near-future issues with new ramifications. Most of them don’t sound smart enough to know so, let alone do so.

Civic service is not a career, although even political pundits speak of it as such, making a mockery of American history.

When did the shouting of opinions replace the presentation of facts — and the story of the incivility of the shouting matches become regurgitated as “news”?

This community must continue to thank Ehlers for the service given this district — and that of his predecessor Gerald Ford — by expecting it of their leaders.


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