March 5, 2013 > Editorial: Waffles
The word "Waffle" has come through the ages, courtesy of the Dutch word "wafel" referring to a cloth weave and, better yet, resulting in the description of a yummy, crisp honeycomb of baked dough. However, another, less palatable, use of the term appears to have originated as the verb "Waff" in Northern England and Scotland, possibly imitating animal sounds, used to describe a yelp or bark. Both morphed into the same word but with much different meanings.
It appears that the same word which can elicit positive feelings in anticipation of a delicious treat can also degenerate into the chaotic and confusing realm of indecision. In some respects, the same dilemma can apply to political leadership. Elected representatives are artful at giving the illusion of a warm, toasty and delicious future, while, hiding within the details of budgets and political decisions, hide an entirely different type of waffle.
From the national/international scene to state and regional politics, the art of waffle has been perfected over many years. Witness the current "sequestration" or forcible possession of the national budget resulting from the inability of those elected to make decisions. The State of California has been manufacturing budgets filled with smoke and mirrors for years, so we, the people, tiring of the game, have simply let it continue. At the local level, however, the effect of popular support or opposition can be visibly dominant and, it is at this level that each of us can make a difference.
In recent weeks, I have observed the power of the electorate and feel privileged to watch as some City Councils have responded to the will of their communities rather than function as a simple rubber stamp of Staff recommendations. Staff input is important and should be viewed as valuable advice, but their role is as a technical and practical advisor. It is at the nexus of council meetings that citizens are able to help elected representatives fulfill their function as final arbiter. Defining the shape and scope of cityscape and budgets is important to each city's future. There is always a place and time for citizens to participate through reasoned and rational input, assisting the process without rancor.
With active participation of the electorate, we can all make waffles that taste great. Without it, politicians are prone to make waffles out of waffles.