Sommerville: Above all else, government's role is to consider the greater good

October 24, 2008

Corporate responsibility and the government’s role in regulating it have been on the minds of many Americans lately.

From Wall Street, to Washington, to Akron, people are watching and worrying. People are watching the markets and their bank accounts, and wondering what government’s role should be if they are threatened. For if they are, individuals, families, society and our very livelihoods are greatly endangered.

Even the most hard-and-fast capitalist cannot deny that now, more than ever, government does indeed have a responsibility to act in the best interests of the greater good in a civilized society. Whether or not everyone agrees with the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, rescue, or whatever you may choose to call it, Republicans and Democrats together made clear arguments for the dire economic crisis  this nation would face – the likes of which have not been seen since the Great Depression – should the government fail to act.

I always thought ‘trickle-down’ economics as a theory was unfounded, disproven and cruel at its core. Still, as a business man I respect and understand the need for free markets and the freedom for every individual to make money if they’ve worked hard for it.

That’s why in some cases, I can concede that the private sector can be better at running a business than the government. Take the proposal to lease the city sewer system to a private operator in order to fund scholarships to send our city’s high school graduates to college or technical schools.

The greater good in this case is two-fold: our dedicated city workers’ livelihoods are protected; and any Akron high school graduate who could otherwise not afford it will get a college education on the city.

Some people oppose the idea because of a very legitimate fear that private operator equals laissez-faire, no government protections. I can assure those fearful that while the sewer system may no longer be operated by the city should Issue 8 pass, they have my word that we on Akron City Council will keep a watchful eye on the new operators, and we have legislation in place that holds the Mayor to his promise that no sewer worker will be without a job and health care from the city if the issue passes.

We on Council also have our eye on the state of health care access for all Akron residents. We are encouraged by the progress made in health research and technology, as evidenced lately by the growth of the Biomedical Corridor and the Akron Health Department’s commitment to close health care gaps between the haves and have-nots of our city.

Still, we continue to look out for any threats to access to care for our residents, and are ready to step in should such a threat appear eminent. That’s why I’m proud of Council’s record of support for public and low-cost health services for Akron residents.

Government is not and should not be this ominous “big brother” in the shadows poised to pounce on the free market. Rather, it’s been proven lately that we in government should instead be viewed as keepers of this great nation’s promise that its citizens can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without fear of complete chaos if our free society should teeter over the edge of stability every now and then.