23 – Is local government a country song?

I have heard people say that if local government was a song it would be a country song. I guess they mean it would be a tale of woe, the classic country song about losing your land, your partner, your friends and then your dog. It is tragic and suggests that local government is a victim of its circumstances.

It is an interesting observation. At a recent ‘future of the local government’ conference, discussion was dominated by the limited ability for councils to increase rates, cost-shifting from higher levels of government, and ever increasing community demands. It is a grim tale. Despite these realities, I think it is too easy to blame our circumstances, limit our expectations and play the victim.

I would prefer to work in a different musical genre altogether. Take opera for instance. Despite story lines that are similarly tragic, there is a worldliness, grandeur and determination in the lives of the characters. They have a sense of hope for the future. Opera has a majesty that suits my career ambitions.

If there is a link to a country song, as someone with a passing interest in country music (yes, both types), I figure that Melinda Schneider captures the essence of local government with her lyric ‘we’re going in the same direction in a million different ways’ (Big World, Small World). I think these words describe the work of many people in local government, trying hard and having to make it up as they go along in the absence of an organisational ability to determine a set of priorities and coordinate action to achieve them. It is not a tragedy. But it needs to change.

Posted by Whistler