A wish list for ‘pragmatism and compromise’ – not ‘brinksmanship’

By Guest Columnist LISA BORDERS, president of the Grady Health Foundation and former president of the Atlanta City Council and mayoral candidate

The coming holidays puts one in mind of wishes and presents, of the resolutions we will make to be better, smarter, more thoughtful in the New Year. We will accomplish all that we should have done before.

The wish list grows from year to year.

For a city or a state, the list is long and includes good jobs, affordable housing and effective transportation. Across political lines and through the years, the desire for leadership that answers the call to address community-wide challenges continues to ring out.

Still, the list remains long and seemingly impossible to fulfill.

Lisa Borders

Georgia has grappled this year with a host of these challenges. The failure of the T-SPLOST and the looming implications of the fiscal cliff threaten our vitality and call into question our core values.

While we have come together to support regional-impact projects like the deepening of the Savannah Harbor, we persist in debating the proper role of government in the medical needs of our citizens.

I occupy a unique space in the public discourse. As a former elected official, I am fully aware of the cynicism, acrimony and ideological intransigence that pervade our politics.

Yet, in my role as the president of the Grady Foundation, I confront each day the consequences of inaction on our toughest issues.

This has led me to my third role, as a co-founder of No Labels – a non-partisan, grassroots movement of more than half-a-million Democrats, Republicans and Independents who have come together to move the needle, supporting those who make the effort to work in a collaborative way to actually get things done.

The coming year — 2013 — will demand more of our politicians than pithy slogans and patchwork solutions.

My holiday wish is for the real leaders we deserve. These will be women and men of courage who reject beliefs that live at the margins, representing extreme positions, attempting to rule the day.

Instead, our new year will be filled with spirited but authentic debate about the direction of our state and our city. We will pursue pragmatism and compromise rather than brinksmanship and lop-sided victory.

Whether we are deliberating our budget crisis or criminal justice reform, our leaders will measure their words and consider the consequences.

The business community has a central role to play in granting these wishes for change. We are obliged to not simply bemoan the challenges or cast blame for failed political leadership.

Instead, we must be at the forefront of the discussion, asking tough questions and demanding accountability. From addressing our education deficits to expanding our economic development, our corporate citizenship must compel us to engage a sincere commitment to resolving chronic issues.

Holidays are often a time for retrospection, and nothing I dream of here is new.

But, perhaps, in this time of reflection and planning, we can each see ourselves in the role, not of recipient, but of giver. Public servant, corporate titan, civic leader or community activist, we can all deliver on the core promise of the holidays – renewal, revitalization and a commitment to be better than we were.

That can be our gift to Atlanta and to Georgia.

Seasons Greetings.

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