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The bold ones — they’re everywhere

October 10, 2017 GMT

It’s no longer good enough for people in positions of power simply to fix what’s broken.

Putting more cops on the beat, reducing public debt and making sure government is trustworthy should be routine for mayors, governors and legislators. All that’s required is for them to do their job. But quiet efficiency isn’t enough anymore.

In these turbulent times, bold solutions are all the rage. They must be better than simple solutions. Why else would politicians all over America, including Albuquerque mayoral candidate Dan Lewis, be talking the same way?

“We have a crisis in public safety, high crime rates, low economic growth, failing schools and a crisis of confidence in elected officials. It’s time to address these changes with bold solutions,” Lewis told the Albuquerque Journal upon entering the race.

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Perhaps now that Lewis has advanced to the mayoral runoff against State Auditor Tim Keller he will explain why so many crises took hold while he was a member of the Albuquerque City Council for the last eight years.

Still, Lewis must be on to something important. It’s uncanny how his theme is so strikingly similar to what countless other politicians are saying this year.

“We need a leader who is not afraid to level with the people of this state, someone who’s ready to bring us together around bold solutions,” said Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who’s running for governor of Michigan.

Democratic state Rep. Lisa Subeck of Wisconsin had a similar message: “I’m sad we aren’t looking at the bigger picture and looking at big and bold solutions to homelessness,” she said.

Steve Carter, a Republican state representative in Louisiana, had no shortage of outsized aspirations. He filed a bill to increase Louisiana’s gas tax by 17 cents a gallon to improve transportation. “The citizens of this state are sick of being stuck in traffic, and they want bold solutions that improve safety, quality of life and economic productivity,” Carter said.

A tax increase to improve roads sounded like an old solution from the Huey Long era. But it was too bold, maybe even radical, for Carter’s legislative colleagues. They killed his bill.

Closer to home, state Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, speaks the same language as the rest. New Mexico’s land grant endowment is worth billions, and he said some of that money should be used to reduce poverty by creating economic opportunities. “Breaking our Land of Mañana cycle is possible but it will require bold solutions and real action,” McCamley said.

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The part about action is true. Establishing new beneficiaries of the land grant endowment would require approval from the state Legislature and New Mexico voters, followed by an act of Congress.

Iowa Democratic state Rep. John Forbes used the same aggressive language regarding a national problem. “The one thing I know for certain is that the current U.S. health care system is on life support. America needs a bold solution, and it is time to move to a single-payer system,” he said.

Even with all this boldness that no doubt would lead to goodness, one can still find naysayers.

An old pro who’s spent his working life on newspaper copy desks considers bold change to be hackneyed. President Richard Nixon’s State of the Union message in 1972 was built around that very theme. “Nixon went out of his way to promise in advance the boldest and most far-reaching remedies ever proposed for national ills,” The Associated Press breathlessly reported. This was five months before the Watergate burglary, a scandal that became a national ill perpetrated by Nixon.

In these times, Wayne Johnson, a Bernalillo County commissioner, is among those not sold on sloganeering. Johnson lost to fellow Republican Lewis in the Albuquerque mayoral election, a campaign in which Johnson tried to undercut his rival’s signature line.

“I’m not trying to give you bold solutions, or, as I call them, BS,” Johnson said at a candidates’ forum.

It’s plain that Johnson rated Lewis’ promise as trite and empty. But it’s Lewis who lives to fight another round in the campaign. He’ll carry on, boldly going where so many others asking for donations and votes have gone before him.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3010.