This spring’s New Albany municipal elections were characterized by a lot of money spent and a lot of promises made.
Record sums were spent on signs and brochures and advertising. Much of the money came from the pockets of the candidates and their families, but considerable amounts of campaign money came from outside the community. Professional politicians in Jackson took an enthusiastic interest in the outcome of our small town elections and were generous with their support for the candidates they believed would serve their interests.
Some candidates promised local voters they would deliver a great many good things for the community. Improved water, better sidewalks, more and better playgrounds for children — a great many things that would, undoubtedly, be good for New Albany were promised. The newly constituted New Albany Board of Aldermen will hold the second of the more than 200 meetings they will have during their four-year terms tomorrow evening, Tuesday, July 1, when they convene at city hall.
Now the aldermen will have to deal with realities.
Otto von Bismarck, the creator of modern Germany and the dominant European politician of the last quarter of the 19th century, was noted for his political skills — intelligence, imagination, charm when appropriate, ruthlessness when it served his purposes. He had enormous energy and flexibility, serving at various times as military commander, diplomat, parliamentarian and federal chancellor for nearly 20 years. Most importantly he was a hard-headed pragmatist. “Politics,” Bismarck famously said, “is the art of the possible.”
That is something New Albany’s aldermen must learn and practice. No matter what they may have promised during their campaigns, voters will judge them on what they actually accomplish in office. They will be expected to sort out what is possible and produce results.
Economics has been called “the dismal science” because the reality of available money in contrast to perceived needs makes for tough, often unhappy choices. The New Albany city budget for the current fiscal year is just under seven million dollars. That’s about how much will come into the city treasury from all revenue sources and that’s how much will be spent on city services.
The first business of the city board will be to create a budget for fiscal year 2018. City revenues may increase some, as they have in recent years, but no huge windfalls, no dramatic increases in available money, are going to occur.
Regardless of promises made and optimistic hopes raised during the campaign, the new city board will have to deal with the economics of city government as they really are. Reality is upon them and they will have to figure out — and agree upon — what is actually possible.
Performance is all that counts during the next four years.