Government underwhelming performer



Column by Austin Schmitt

First, it’s the students. Then, it’s the landlords. Could it now be the government?

In the last couple of weeks, a local situation involving student housing and a national issue involving health care reform, ended with similar fates and lessons for both government and students to ponder.

The nearly seven months of drama surrounding student housing came to a not so dramatic end last week when the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council reached a compromise with landlords, students and whoever else wanted to be included.

A bitter debate over the past several months saw blame shift between the students and the landlords. However, if you look a little deeper, the Lexington city government may be the problem.

Driving this fight from the beginning, the government failed to find the root of the problem, which is the exact reason why it took months to reach a weak compromise on this issue.

The students got what they wanted because it will only affect a small percentage of students who live in houses with more than six people.

The landlords got what they wanted because they are not being told which houses they can or cannot rent to students.

That leaves the government — did it get what it wanted?

Despite the positive vibes coming from the meeting, I honestly do not think this is what the government wanted. This government had the chance to do something truly significant in changing policy, instead it settled for a ground rule double.

In no way do I support city government’s attempt to severely restrict student housing regulations, but why create a problem that was important enough in September to majorly reform real estate rules and then settle in April on something that doesn’t really affect anybody?

Look in the mirror, government representatives, and ask yourselves, did you really do anything?

The city government realized it couldn’t really fix anything, so it felt the need to do something, and that one thing it could do was change the definition of a family.

Throw the doomsday scenarios out the window. Breathe easy landlords and students because everything will be OK. Landlords walk away looking like heroes while the government puts its head down and walks back to the bench.

On a larger scale, the federal government just wielded a deal similar to what Lexington city government did. While health care is not student housing, the way both governments dealt with the issues were similar.

The federal government knew health care needed reform — everyone knew health care needed a reform. Therefore, the government, including President Obama, made reform priority No. 1. The opportunity lay right in front of them, ripe for the taking.

And what did they do? Hit another ground rule double.

Charged with reforming health care, the federal government put together a bill neither side could agree on and attempted, in vain, to push it through the legislative process by any means necessary.

Legislators knew they had to do something or else all their efforts and talks over the past several months would have gone down in the history books as just a footnote. So they did something.

They used a loophole in the U.S. Constitution (the longest standing document in the history of democratic government, by the way) to push through an imperfect bill.

People can rejoice in the streets and Democrats can pat themselves on the back, but what did they really accomplish?

This country has stood behind the legislative process for over 200 years to insure democracy is served and bills that shouldn’t be passed are not passed.

When a bill comes to a vote and the votes aren’t there, it is sent back for re-tooling. It should not be jammed down the throats of the American people on a technicality.

Sure, the precedents are in place for this process, but those instances were not used on legislation that affects every single person on a daily basis in the country.

Compare the federal government’s actions with the actions of the Lexington city government. They both had great opportunity to do something significant. They both felt the pressure from both sides. They both reached a compromise. They both felt the pressure to do something, no matter what it was.

Yet in the end, they both did something that let down all parties involved: they did something while not doing anything at all. Both situations do not provide end all, be all resolutions that will stand up for years to come.

Attorney generals from 13 states already filed lawsuits against the federal government. Trash will continue to pile up in the streets of Lexington.

The sun will keep rising in the morning and governments will keep failing to rise to the occasion.