For the Record

The Charlotte Observer
Ruth Samuelson
Jan 5, 2009

The late Robert F. Kennedy often explained his commitment to public service with this quote from George Bernard Shaw, "Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not." Those words offer a fresh challenge as we begin a new year. We are confronted with hurdles that most of us could never have imagined. We can't help but see things as they are. We are buffeted by headlines announcing cuts and losses. We know friends or relatives whose jobs have been lost. We've watched the sprouting of "for sale" signs. It would be easy to become so weighed down by what's around us that we miss the opportunity before us.

Yes, there is opportunity before us. That is good news. In fact, even our bad news can be seen as good news in disguise. As painful as the process is, we are already in a better position than we were this time a year ago. Now we are dealing with truth. We may not like the facts, but they are real and equip us for informed decision-making for our families, our businesses and our government.

For our state government, where spending cannot outstrip income, this can mean an honest review of programs and expenditures and an end to the waste that creeps into the budget of any bureaucracy.

As a member of the N.C. House of Representatives, I am going to encourage my fellow legislators and the state's executive branch to seize this opportunity to innovate - to do more with less. I believe we will be amazed and encouraged by what can be accomplished when we seek fresh ideas and implement them for the benefit of our citizens.

This is an ideal time to begin investing in initiatives that will provide immediate jobs while solving old problems. As someone who is pro-environment, I have a wish list of good ideas that have not yet been put into wide use such as requiring the use of energy and water performance contracts in every building that is being constructed or remodeled with full or partial state funding.

These contracts pay for themselves through cost savings for gas, electricity and water while contributing to a significant decrease in greenhouse gases and pollution.

We could help lift the burden of local school districts by raising the cap on public charter schools, especially for those charters using nationally proven models like our K.I.P.P. school in Charlotte.

This would reduce both building costs and long-term expenses in every school district.

We must dramatically improve our justice system by scrapping competing or obsolete tracking systems. Taking advantage of the computer and Internet advances that are a routine part of business life to solve backlogs and breakdowns will save money long term and increase public safety now.

That's just the start of my list. Do you have one your own? If so, this is the time to take it out, set your priorities and say "Why not!" All of us have a choice right now.

We can settle for what we see - or, we can dust off our dreams for ourselves, our communities and our country. If we put our energy into making them a reality the only way we can go is up.

For The Record offers commentaries from various sources. The views are the writer's, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board. Open forum

Samuelson will host an open forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at Beverly Woods Elementary for citizens to share views on issues facing state government. Bring a non-perishable food item for Loaves and Fishes.

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John Piper writes out of his own experience facing cancer and how to see it as an opportunity to glorify God.