John Barrette

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April 15, 2014
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Scene in Passing: At times, it's best to let others do the work

Micromanagement is a two-edged sword.

It’s a good idea to remember that he who lives by the sword also can die by the sword, at least metaphorically speaking. A pair of matters that came to light of late, combined with a quote found in a monthly men’s magazine, reminded me that some elected government officials seem to have a penchant for trying to micromanage in arenas outside their branch of government.

Two of them are Harry Reid and Jim Shirk, unlike in so many other ways. First, however, let’s ponder the quote.

“What should a man know about government?” Men’s Journal asked James Lee Burke, a novelist and former newsman with a noir view of life and crime.

“I was a journalist,” Burke replied, “and every journalist learns the lesson: When we hear about bad guys in government, we always identify them with the prince of darkness. The guy is demonic until we meet him. And instead of Satan, we discover we’re talking to Elmer Fudd. The banality is mind-numbing.”

There are few bad guys in government. Neither Reid nor Shirk is among such evil-doers, as far as I can discern. In fact, think about it: that’s sort of Burke’s point.

But there are those in the legislative arena who think it’s their job to ride herd on everything of interest to them. They continually try to micromanage a world in which micromanagement winds up becoming an obsession for them and a distraction for everyone else. Government is gummed up enough already, isn’t it?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada says the controversy in Southern Nevada over land-grazing rights, fees and laws isn’t over. He’s right, of course, but who needed him to state the obvious in terms of the scandalous? This is a matter for the judicial and executive branches of government. A smart lawmaker would try to defuse such a volatile situation, not fuel it.

As for Carson City Supervisor Jim Shirk, you would think a man in search of support among colleagues and constituents might ponder the wisdom of trying to micromanage anything and everything. Right or wrong, his judgment regarding when to cut an issue comes into question. His complaints aren’t wearing well with staff, the mayor or other supervisors.

The latest example involves his insistence that all correspondence addressed to the Board of Supervisors be handled the way he wants rather than allowing for staff latitude and discretion. Interim City Manager Marena Works said executive judgment is used and “unless the board directs otherwise, we will continue to exercise that good judgment” on handling correspondence addressed to the board but requiring timely city government action.

Perhaps Sen. Reid and Supervisor Shirk are doing their jobs the best they know how. But it puts in mind a question the Looney-Tunes “wacky wabbit” called Bugs Bunny might ask Elmer Fudd: “Eh, what’s up Doc?”

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Apr 15, 2014 10:59PM Published Apr 15, 2014 10:59PM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.