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We choose our leaders, but our options are limited to those on the ballot. In his latest column, Jeremi Suri posed the questions all of us have been thinking but are too coy to ask: Why are our local candidates (and national candidates, for that matter) so mediocre? Where is the leadership? After dining with successful business leaders, Suri questioned why they were not running for office. They exemplified qualities that constituted leadership, courage, ambition and rigorous thinking. Why couldn't they translate that success into the public sector?
But are business leaders really the people we hope to inspire? It is true that many of our candidates for office could not run a major business, but does that mean the inverse applies? Could Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs overcome the next two years of Congressional gridlock? Business leaders have a considerable amount of autonomy. Businesses are more often profit-driven entities with a hierarchical internal structure. Politicians’ objectives are not so well defined. They tackle whichever issues are most salient to their constituency. Their powers are constrained and they face collective action problems. Public offices have less creative freedom than business leaders to find solutions.
Business leaders are not necessarily our best candidates; compelling them to run is not as important as reaching out to young adults. In his column, Suri presses the next generation of young strivers to cultivate their skills, vote and get in the game. As of now, many young adults do not have seats in public offices. Many do not run. With no family, no children and entry-level jobs, they are often disinclined to. Many young adults feel they lack anchors to their communities. They feel they have no ties they can leverage to demonstrate their commitment. The next generation has a wealth of resources available to it. This generation’s problems have become more complex, yes, but young adults are also more equipped to handle them with the lessons of history, technology and globalism. They are capable, but overwhelmingly hesitant to run. Empowerment as well as training can overcome this.
We need to enable our next generation, more specifically, our next generation of women. Young women are one of the most underrepresented populations in our government. This trend has existed throughout history. Women of all ages do not run for office as often as men do, even though they are much more likely to vote. This is a result of the sexism and discrimination female politicians confront. They are held to alternate standards and expectations in politics. How often has Senator Tom Harkin commented on the "good looks" of male candidates? Would Wendy Davis’ parenthood be scrutinized if she were a man? If we allow the gender gap in politics to diffuse to the next generation, we will disenfranchise nearly half of our population, half of our knowledge and skills.
Suri is right. The candidates on our ballots are unimpressive. But the solution is not compelling business leaders to run for office. It is reaching the next generation of young adults, more specifically, young women. Only this way can we blend excellence and diversity to enable better leaders.
Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.
This January, the state of Texas will inaugurate a new Governor for the first time since I was in the first grade. To put that in perspective, the current freshmen had not started school yet and some kids currently in high school had yet to be born. On Tuesday night, we found out that Texans had chosen — rather decisively — the incumbent Attorney General, Greg Abbott, to be that individual, our state's 48th Governor.
Governor-elect Abbott received a mandate from Texans; to argue otherwise is just plain silly. He won Tuesday's election by a higher margin than Governor Rick Perry ever won by, in all three of his gubernatorial races. Abbott won more total votes than any other person who has ever run for governor. Accordingly, even though voter turnout was down, it is just naïve to claim the new governor will be riding into office with anything short of the backing of a majority of Texans.
Concurrent with Abbott's election as governor was Dan Patrick's election as lieutenant governor, a powerful position with almost despotic powers over the state Senate. Lieutenant governor-elect Patrick, a bombastic and tea party state senator, has already suggested he would bring up a plethora of conservative pipe dreams in the upcoming session, including a controversial proposal to allow students at public universities to bring their concealed handguns onto campus. While a Senate run by Patrick and packed with his friends would likely pass these measures, they could easily find themselves slowed in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Joe Straus, a comparatively moderate Republican, still reigns supreme.
Straus, left to his own devices, is not much for divisive social issues. A policy wonk and a pragmatist, he would instead focus on the real issues facing the state such as education and infrastructure. The type that requires the real dedication and seriousness that demagogues like Patrick loathe. Abbott is somewhere in the middle of those two philosophies.
This is why Abbott's leadership style will be so very important. If there is anything that Straus' record has shown us, it is that he will fold like a card table when pressured by the governor. When Perry pushed the omnibus anti-abortion legislation in the summer of 2013, Straus heralded it through the chamber to passage with alacrity. Left to his own devices, he would not wade into those uneasy waters, but he is more than willing to be pushed in.
Brian Sweany at Texas Monthly inquired on Wednesday as to how Abbott would lead once in office. Whether he would attempt to personally run the state like the incumbent or be more content to lurk in the shadows like predecessors. Those are important questions, but I think the most important one is if he will be more amenable to the ideology-based concerns of his Lieutenant Governor, or the pragmatism-based ones of his speaker of the House.
I hope it is the latter.
Horwitz is an associate editor.
On Tuesday, Austinites voted down local Proposition 1, a bond proposal for a prospective urban rail development. As contentious as rail has always been in Austin, the future city council needs to know that this is not evidence that Austin doesn’t want or need an adequate public transportation system. This is an example of city planners not listening to what the citizens want.
The most important issue concerning transportation in Austin, the solution that many Austinites want, is easing the congestion concentrated on the two arteries into the urban core: Mopac and I-35. Despite claims to the contrary made by pro-rail advocates, an urban rail would not solve this main area of congestion. Sure, there were minimal park and ride options near the terminus of the route, but not nearly enough to combat this problem.
More and more people are moving into the urban core of Austin, but the fact remains that the majority of Austin’s population lives outside of the urban core and uses the highways to get into the city and to their place of work. Ideally, Austin could have a dense urban center convenient for urban rail use, but the reality is that the city is still suffering from suburban sprawl.
The reasons for living outside of the urban center are more complicated than merely the want of a large house and a backyard. Affordability often plays a large role in the decision because urban housing is out of reach for most Austinites.
Proposition 1 did not address the needs of Austinites, and it was rightly defeated. But the issues at hand are still pressing. As a city, we need to immediately begin moving forward. The city must address the true transportation needs of its citizens, not the development wants of potential investors. It took 14 years for another rail option to be put on the ballot. I have confidence that a better system will not take another 14 years. But in the mean time, the city must consider and implement other options. Rail is not the only way to get around, and the next city council should immediately begin looking at improving and expanding existing infrastructure for multimodal transportation including buses, bikes, pedestrian pathways, and yes, even roads for cars.
Haight is an associate editor.