Leadership is about providing what we need, not just what we want
By Chris Ingram
On Friday of last week, Josh Burgin qualified to run against Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe for the at-large seat Sharpe has held for the last six years.
Burgin, who is a nice guy whom I consider a friendly acquaintance made a calculated move based on the assumption that Sharpe is vulnerable for two reasons: 1) because Sharpe has been a strong advocate for the local option transportation improvement penny sales tax; and, 2) because Sharpe is an incumbent in a year when voters appear to be very anti-incumbent.
So now this nice fella’ Josh wants to represent us on the commission. Great! We need more young people with fresh ideas. But Burgin, who is 34 years old, isn’t ready for primetime. His life experiences include all of being the Executive Director of the local G.O.P., and an aide to former commissioner Brian Blair. To my knowledge he has never run a business, or served in the military, and he never finished college (strangely enough, his wife answered a call to his campaign phone and she didn’t know if he ever attended college, or if he had gone to college, where). Not that all of these things are a necessary requirement, but when you start adding up Josh’s accomplishments, the resume screams “untested.”
So what makes Josh run? For that, you have to understand the “I’ll get you” mentality of the man who got him to run. The same man who recruited Burgin, two years ago told me “I know Buddy Johnson is a moron but he’s our moron, so we need to support him,” in a discussion we were having about the now disgraced former county Elections Supervisor. Fortunately the voters got smart and sent Johnson packing, and the little guy from Brandon walked away with his tail between his legs. The point is, Burgin is supported by the same bunch of backroom, poker playing, kingmakers who gave us Buddy Johnson.
As for his platform, Burgin’s is thinner than a strand of angel hair pasta. It basically boils down to one issue: he’s opposed to the transportation infrastructure improvement plan Sharpe supports. And while he’d like to fancy himself as the ultra-conservative “Minnie-Me” to Brian Blair, he lacks the main thing Blair has going for him – namely, name I.D. and a spandex Bumble Bee suit.
If Burgin and his cronies had their way, we’d all just look the other way the next twenty years as our roads continue to clog – kind of the way our local “leaders” have acted for the last twenty years. If you want more of the same (lack of proper planning, traffic gridlock, and the mess that is County Center), Josh is your guy.
But if you’re someone who frequently rides the roads of Hillsborough County and has to sit in gridlock every day, and you’re tired of it; or if you think the Pat Bean/Renee Lee fiasco at County Center should have been solved months ago, look to Mark Sharpe.
We could sit around and talk about who is to blame for the “Hillsborough havoc” until we’re blue in the face. People like County Commissioner Jim Norman come to mind. Norman has been in office for an eternity, and now, facing term limits seeks a seat in the State Senate. He’ll fit right in, as that body is full of double-talking do-nothings with questionable motives and sub-par ethics. The fact that the aggregate I.Q. of the entire body is less than the combined scoring of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season bodes well for Norman – he’ll be the brightest bulb in a chamber full of night lights. And while his move to the legislature will be a bad thing for the state of Florida, his absence on the Hillsborough County Commission will be a welcome change, so “so long Norman!”
While the lack of leadership demonstrated by Norman and others can be ignored — since pointing fingers won’t fix the gridlock — the problem itself cannot. And while the transportation improvement plan may not be perfect, it is a start. Being stuck in traffic costs us all money not to mention a lower standard of living and a decreased quality of life. Personally, I’d pay a two-penny tax to not be stuck in traffic most afternoons if I knew it would get me home quicker so I could spend more time with my family.
I’m not convinced the tax will do this, so I will continue to do research on the issue before I decide to support it or not. But one thing is clear: Mark Sharpe is trying, and he’s shown leadership on this issue. Norman, Burgin, and the kingmaking poker player who supports them are good at criticizing Sharpe’s efforts — but don’t look to them for any solutions. They don’t have a plan. Planning means you’ve got to make tough decisions – and that is a lot harder than throwing stones at someone else’s ideas.
Sharpe’s efforts on the transportation infrastructure improvement matter boil down to this: he has led the fight to give the voters the opportunity to decide if they want it or not. The measure will appear on the November ballot as a referendum for Hillsborough voters. This is Democracy at its most true form. We the people actually get a say. How can anyone be opposed to that? And why would you penalize someone for giving you the opportunity to have your voice heard — directly — at the ballot box?
As a reformed Republican in the G.O.P. 12-step program, I have come to realize we as a party cannot merely be against everything that is tax related and expect the problems facing our county, state, or nation to just go away. That’s George W. Bush economics and it doesn’t work. Simply put, the problems we are facing have to be addressed, and the debt will have to be repaid. And there is only one way to pay back all the borrowed money we’ve used for so long – taxes. Sharpe’s plan is a “pay as you go” plan, so future generations aren’t saddled with paying the bills.
Instead of digging in and claiming who waves the flag of fiscal conservatism the highest, we must start to recognize that the failed leadership of the past cannot be ignored, and in order to improve the future opportunities of our children and grandchildren, we all have to make sacrifices. This may include supporting tax increases – particularly when they involve things like infrastructure improvements, reforming our schools, maintaining our nation’s military superiority, and paying off all the money we owe that previous politicians spent to get reelected.
Of course as part of any tax increases, we must send a message to our Democrat friends that social spending must be cut. We as a country simply cannot afford to provide unfunded handouts to every well-intentioned left-leaning constituency if we want to remain the greatest military and economic power on earth. You may think universal healthcare, free college education, no cost prescription drugs, and a chicken in every pot are great ideas, but who is going to pay for it?
In short, we must all make sacrifices. Our country cannot afford not to. But it’s not just about Washington. This is about a change of mindset in state capitols and local government centers across the country.
As for the traffic mess we’re facing in Tampa, Mark Sharpe has worked diligently to fix a problem that we have long since known needs fixing – and he has a plan to do it. This isn’t any different than how many politicians operate save for one important detail. That is, Sharpe has advocated a way to fix the problem and pay for it as we go. If more elected officials followed this model, our country wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in right now.
Paying for all the largess we want from government is the little point most politicians ignore. They find a way to fix problems, but they pass the buck avoiding the pain right now – usually in the form of deficit spending. But that debt ultimately must be repaid – usually by generations far down the road. You know, your kids – whom the politicians of today won’t care much about when they’re living in some retirement village, playing shuffleboard, and not buying any green bananas.
To Mark Sharpe, I say “thank you.” Thank you for your leadership and for taking a stand on a necessary, albeit unpopular measure. Making tough decisions is what leadership is all about. Mark Sharpe is not only a real leader, he is a solid conservative. While I don’t agree with him on everything (this shows signs of functioning grey matter between the ears which many in the Republican Party apparently lack), he is a man of honor, integrity, intelligence, and convictions to do the right thing.
For those who want to vilify Sharpe as someone who is a traitor to our conservative principles let me remind you of something Ronald Reagan once said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.”
I’m as mad as most about the direction our country is headed. From G.W. Bush and Barack Obama, to Charlie Crist and Alex Sink, to Jim Norman and Kevin White, our country is being led by people have no vision, have questionable ethics, and who will tell you what you want to hear but never tell you what you need to hear.
Mark Sharpe is the exception and he is one of the few incumbents on the ballot this year who will get my vote.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of www.IrreverentView.com. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, Front Page Florida, and National Review online. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
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