Doing as your boss says is best approach

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 7, 2009

A long time ago a colleague told me the best way to stay out of trouble was to do exactly what your boss said.

At the time I heard this nugget of wisdom, my 20-something-year-old mind bristled at the thought.

“‘Do exactly what your told, even if you don’t think they know what they’re talking about?’ What a ridiculous notion,” I thought to myself.

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But over the years, the wisdom has become increasingly clear — if you do exactly what they want then they have nothing to complain about if things don’t work out as planned.

That is excellent advice for politicians, too. But figuring out what your “boss” wants when your collective “boss” is made up of thousands of constituents can be difficult.

But if ever there was a “no-brainer” in politics, I heard it on Friday morning at a meeting of leaders seeking to pursue the development of a new recreation complex in Adams County.

The group of city, county, school and community leaders discussed a suggestion to put a “non-binding referendum” about a proposed recreation complex on the November ballot.

“Non-binding referendum” is a bit like one of those Old Testament, King James Version phrases that you need three preachers and a Greek scholar to decipher into common people language.

Essentially, it’s an informal poll put on the ballot. Lawyers would write the language, but essentially, it would say something like, “Would you support a countywide recreation complex to be financed by a bond issue?”

Simple enough. Yes or no.

Now the beauty of this is that it’s “non-binding” meaning that all it does is gives leaders a chance to check the pulse of the community before pursuing the planning and work further.

Those stages would cost some money and, quite frankly, they don’t want to waste taxpayers’ dollars on something that doesn’t have the support of the majority of voters.

The non-binding referendum will cost taxpayers next to nothing because it can simply be added to the ballot that’s already going out in November.

It’s the ultimate in political safety nets. Simply ask the people if they’ll support it and base the next step on their response.

Before the “let’s kill it because there might be a tax involved crowd” comes out, consider a couple of facts.

The referendum isn’t the end of the process.

The county supervisors could still have the bond issue go to a vote. For that matter a group of citizens could do the same thing, too.

And a bond issue doesn’t necessarily mean that taxes will go up.

As Supervisor Mike Lazarus explains, as the county pays off older debt, any newer debt from a possible recreation complex could easily be paid for with the funds freed up as the old debt expires.

“You could structure the payments so you don’t pay much for a year or two when the older debt is retired,” Lazarus said.

It’s akin to paying off one car, then buying another with the money you were using for the old note.

And the best part is that no politician has to step out and take a risk. All they have to do is put it on the ballot and give the people a chance to voice their opinions.

The city has said it supports recreation. The county has said it supports recreation. Now let’s listen to the people.

Virtually no risk exists in doing so and, in the end, we might just be able to turn decades of talking about recreation into action. Our leaders just need to do what their bosses want.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or