Flip Flop

And the hits just keep on coming….BCS National Championship game, we’ll see you on January 9th! To all clients, associates and friends, fair warning: don’t be surprised if I come down with a debilitating case of the C.Rushing flu that Monday.

For those who don’t follow college football, a process called the Bowl Championship Series  (BCS) selects the participants for the championship game. The BCS uses a formula that comprises three elements: two human polls and an average of 6 computer rankings. To be frank the whole process is convoluted and an asinine way to determine a champion (if, for some reason, you need to induce vomiting you can read more here).

Sunday had everything but the hanging chad...

Coming into the weekend, it appeared that my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide was a shoe-in for the Championship Game. Oklahoma State University, however, had a slim chance for beating the Tide out if a number of things broke their way during Saturday’s action. As fate would have it, all of those things did in fact break the way of the ‘Pokes (who blew out their arch-nemesis OU 44-10). This set the tone for nail-biting Sunday full of talking heads, leaked polls, campaigning, tweeting, and other bullshit (as opposed to every other sport where things are settled in some form of playoff format). The thought was that the computers would likely bump OSU ahead of ‘Bama, and if 25% of voters in the Harris and Coaches polls switched their second place votes from ‘Bama (the incumbent #2) to OSU (the previous week’s #5 and 6), OSU would indeed leapfrog the Tide and head to New Orleans for the Championship game. In the end, OSU didn’t get as much help from the computers as anticipated, and not enough human voters changed their minds. I am, of course, over the moon that ‘Bama will have their chance to avenge their loss to the delta bravo’s from Red Stick. The voting process, however, got me thinking about what it takes for people to change their minds once they have established a position.

As a MAN who is almost FORTY,
I feel for Mr. Gundy and Cowboys.
(One of the great sports rants of all time.)

One of the (many) things that pisses me off about our current politic discourse is the phenomenon of couching an opponent as one who “flip-flops”. The thought behind the concept is that anyone who changes their mind cannot be trusted in the future because they may change their position on an issue. I think that is one of the dimmest concepts to ever be brought into our collective conversation. Candidates who make these accusations are essentially saying that they themselves are perfect and that they have finished learning. How refreshing would it be to have a candidate offer that while their core principles are inviolable, they are open to processing new information and reaching new conclusions about specific issues.

It has been said that change is the only constant. In many ways that is a scary concept. Perhaps that is why we have historically built the most permanent structures for our most psychologically important functions – ecclesiastical, financial, and governmental buildings (which were often one in the same). Change, however, does not respect the seeming permanence of our buildings and cities. We are left only with the choice of changing for the better or worse- progress or decline. Given that choice, one would assume that the vast majority of us would like our cities to progress. It is impossible, however, to make progress without changing current conditions. It is impossible to change current conditions if you are unable to change your mind.

This has very real implications for how we position ourselves to talk about the future development of our city. There are several possible examples to cite, but I’ll go back to my honey hole and pick on transportation engineers. During Corker’s administration, the city undertook two controversial traffic projects: the two-way switch of McCallie and MLKing, and the narrowing of Riverfront Parkway. Both of those projects sparked very vocal opposition*. The rallying cry was essentially “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” (never mind that it was broken). This was an argument against change. Learned opponents claimed that cars would be careening into one another, pollution would ensue, pedestrians would be slaughtered daily, and that traffic would choke downtown and bring circulation to a standstill. Now that we are almost a decade into the conversion, we have found that none of these things have come to pass. In fact, both of these projects appear to have been incredibly successful.

The next time a similar project rolls around will the citizenry be able to learn from our past experiences and formulate new opinions or will we fall back into familiar patterns? Consider US-27… Suppose there is a transportation project on the horizon. Suppose also that learned supporters suggest that if we don’t go along with a mid-20th century solution of building bigger and more, that pollution will increase, pedestrians will be in danger, and traffic will choke downtown and bring circulation to a standstill. Do you think that our decision makers and the citizenry that support them would consider those arguments vis a vis our recent experiences? Do you think that people who have come out in support of an idea can reconsider and reverse their position for the betterment of the city? Hope springs eternal.

Note: Yes, I did search for a situation where I changed my mind about something. Forunately, I’m not a flip-flopper and no such incidences have occurred.

*In an effort to find some exact quotes, I actually went through the process of digging up a dozen opinion letters from the Chattanoogan and TFP regarding the projects. After some reflection, however, I decided not to include them. I don’t want to be perceived as calling my neighbors out for an “I-told-you-so”. You can either take my word for it or research it yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment