Under the Dome column: Why doesn’t everyone think like me?
Under the Dome
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn as an engineer transitioning to management years ago was that other people don’t always see things or come to conclusions the same way I do. Imagine that.
Last week I had a great experience working with engineering students from our wonderful Colorado universities who are participating in a month-long internship at the Capitol. They each chose a problem related to state government. They are analyzing the problem while learning how government functions. They will propose solutions through initiatives or legislation. I love the way they think. Logic, reason and math applied to public policy.
I came across a book several years ago titled “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion.” The author, Jonathan Haidt, analyzes the value systems and processes that go into our decision making and how they differ. I think it should be a must read for politicians who aspire to be good legislators. I’ve been known to give away copies.
I think that I’ve been successful in my six years in the Colorado House of Representatives in passing bills that I co-sponsored with other legislators of both parties. We often use the term bipartisan, but there can be major differences between legislators who live on the same side of the aisle.
It took a lot of discussion and compromise during this last session to enact historic laws on pension reform (SB-200) and transportation (SB-01). And it always takes heroic effort to balance the $29 billion budget. I’ve been extremely fortunate to serve on the Joint Budget Committee, where cooperative teamwork is not just a good thing but is an absolute necessity.
But good will and compromise don’t always work. The conflict between human services and entitlement budgets and spending on basic infrastructure will be with us again this year and into the future. As will issues related to the “urban/rural” divide and adequate education funding. And we will still debate the role of TABOR in controlling overall state spending. To get things done, our state representatives and senators need to understand that their “friends” may not think like them. We all need to understand that our bill partners and the other voting members will be representing their constituents, but they will also be using different value systems and processes to reach their conclusions.
I suppose that’s why it looks so messy to observers. So enjoy watching the circus and help me make the right choices. It’s an honor to serve you no matter if you don’t think exactly the way I do.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his third term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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