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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yes, Virginia, “The Government” Really is Here to Help

You’ve probably heard the laughter surrounding the statement, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Yes, it does seem that nearly every time people talk about “the government,” or “the government” is in the news, it is painted in a bad light – stories of partisanship, bumbling bureaucrats, or squabbling among agencies.

This paints a dismal picture of how government functions. I’m here to dispute that. The presentation of the COMPASS Leadership in Motion awards earlier this week reminded me once again of all the good work “the government” (elected officials, staff, contractors, and volunteers) does for its citizens.

The first two awards presented highlight government projects that succeeded through the cooperation of several different agencies with different goals and different ways of looking at things, yet had one thing in common: they wanted to do what was best for their citizens.

The Leadership by Example, Canyon County award was presented jointly to Canyon Highway District #4, the City of Middleton, and the Middleton School District for their collaborative efforts to build the new Emmett Road dual roundabouts in Middleton near the new Middleton High School. They saw a potential safety issue near the school and worked together for a solution.

Leadership by Example, Ada County, was awarded jointly to the Ada County Highway District, the City of Boise, and Valley Regional Transit for their cooperative efforts in developing the State Street Transit and Traffic Operations Plan. In addition to these three, numerous other agencies were involved in the project. It was a large collaborative effort serving many different, and often competing, interests, yet they worked to find solutions beneficial to all.

Our special Transportation Champion awardee, Congressman Mike Simpson, was recognized for his efforts in supporting transportation on a federal level and a state level (in both of Idaho’s Congressional Districts) – working to do what needed to be done, regardless of political boundaries.

Similarly, Leadership by Example, Elected Official winner Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas consistently demonstrates leadership locally in Caldwell, regionally through COMPASS and other organizations, and nationally as chair of the Youth Council Committee for the National League of Cities. He doesn’t check his vision or leadership at the city limits.

Even our private business and individual awards demonstrate how government can work as an entity of the people. Leadership in Private Business winner Allied Waste is recognized for its pollution prevention efforts in its truck fleets, which collect waste under contract with many of the local government agencies in both Canyon and Ada Counties. While Allied Waste is a private business, its efforts benefit us all.

Finally, LaRita Schandorff, winner of the Leadership by Example, Individual award demonstrates the importance of the role of private individuals in government. LaRita is the volunteer chair of the Nampa Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizens Advisory Group, and in this role as a private citizen she works closely with the City of Nampa, including helping craft the Nampa Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. She is truly a citizen leader.

I’m excited to be able to share these good stories of how government does “work.” Congratulations to our winners and thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of all of us. Visit www.compassidaho.org/comm/awards.htm to learn more about all of our winners.

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Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.