PERRYSBURG - The complexity, and not the size, of government may be a hindrance for people when it comes to participation at the federal level.
|John Alexander speaking at Perrysburg Chamber Lunch at Perrysburg's Carranor Hunt and Polo Club. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
John Alexander, former municipal administrator of Perrysburg, brought this message as he spoke before the Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
Alexander, who now operates Government Policy Research LLC, noted that his 40 years of public service began when he worked as a sheriff's deputy in Calhoun County, Mich. "The world looked different," he said, with the position offering him the "ability to actually get out and do something with some very interesting people." From there, Alexander would find himself in the very heart of local administration, serving in posts as diverse as a criminologist with the City of Toledo, chief of staff under Carty Finkbeiner, chief of staff for the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, and Lucas County administrator before coming to Perrysburg.
Toledo and Lucas County, he said, presented a "rough and tumble" atmosphere, something which was gratefully lacking when he came south across the river.
Alexander noted that those living in the United States are all taxpayers, but "we're all also investors." And investors expect a return on the money they put into a system - including tax dollars.
"We collect the money," he said of government, "and it's redistributed, but it's redistributed to the community."
Essentially, those dollars are meant to buy the taxpayer a system of effective public policy. In Perrysburg and elsewhere, Alexander said, he applied the kind of methodology he learned from his days in the Toledo crime lab: observation, experimentation, and drawing conclusions from the evidence.
When it comes to public policy, he said, you must ask if what is being put forth will have support, if it is legal, and if there will be money to back it up.
"We tried to make the government do what it was supposed to do, and that's to serve the people."
"The more access we have to something, the more we will understand it," he said of the government. On paper, if one looks at the organizational chart of the federal government, there are 15 governmental departments.
However, the number of agencies and their various components is elusive. Some sources list 96 agencies and more than 220 associated units. Another lists 137 agencies and over 260 units. Others offer different numbers.
Alexander related a story of calling the Department of the Interior seeking a copy of their organizational chart for a presentation.
The response? "Silence. Then: 'Wow. I don't think there is one.'"
Couple these items with the fact that there are more than 9,000 political appointees in the government and 2.5 million federal employees, and the issue of complexity becomes larger.
"I maintain the more complex something is, the less you understand the organization."
"My concern is, the more we know, the better we can lead," and the more citizens can participate in the federal government.