Don’t Use the Same Paintbrush

I’ve often heard the phrase “I hate Congress, but love my Congressman or Congresswoman”. The perception is collectively they do nothing (or very little) and Washington D.C. is politics on steroids. Truthfully, I don’t always disagree with this statement!

With the advent of social media and twenty-four hour news access, it’s difficult not to expect immediate action for our political leaders, and judge them harshly when we don’t get it.

But what happens when your Congressman or Congresswoman returns home from D.C.? Often they are attending events and interacting with their constituents. And usually their district staff is working with and addressing constituent concerns everyday. So it’s difficult not to appreciate and support them individually. But collectively? That’s another story altogether!

To some extent it’s the same perception at the state level. And by that I mean I often hear local officials refer to “the legislature” when conveying their thoughts about adopted legislation, a preemption, unfunded mandate or a lack of action. They are unhappy with the body as a whole and not just one individual. However, many support their own legislators for the very reason I shared above. They know and interact with them regularly when they’re back in the district, and many are good friends. But put them together in Tallahassee and the story changes.

So I challenge you to consider this theory. Local leaders often talk about “the legislature” painting cities with the same brush. And in some cases they do. Especially when they’re discussing proposed preemption language. Florida State Representative Danny Burgess (R-38) shared his thoughts on what leads to this.

“Often there is an unwillingness for the stakeholders to find common ground. And unfortunately there are some bad actors in a municipality somewhere in the state. That turns into a statewide need to have a blanket policy to usurp Home Rule authority, resulting in a preemption. “

Making the assumption that all cities are bad (painting them with the same brush) is quite inaccurate, which often leads local officials to disagree with “the legislature”. But does referring to “the legislature” collectively suggest local leaders are doing the same? Another comment is “They’re going to do whatever the Leadership tells them to do.” So by making these same assumptions or having these same perceptions, does it not make local officials guilty of using that same brush to paint all state leaders? I say, “It does”!

So perhaps this week’s blog is a word of caution for all advocates to be very careful about using that brush. Because I assure you…state leaders are watching and listening when you do.

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy


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