Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

I'd like to institute a new rule for society.

Didn't know I could do that, did you? Well it sure seems like others make rules I have to follow all the time, so turnabout should be fair play.

From now on, if you want to complain about something, you have to offer a solution for what you're complaining about. Simple enough, right?

It may just be what I see from the perspective of a newspaper editor, but it seems that we have become a community, maybe even a nation, of complainers. And I'm getting tired of it.

If you know me at all, you know that I'm what they call a results-oriented person. I'm more concerned about the outcome than I am the process.

It is the number one reason why I couldn't be a government employee of any kind, elected or hired. I think it's downright stupid to spend a year in hemming and hawing before a tree is trimmed.

I scratch my head at taking literally years to study, then debate, a water project — then start the whole process over again when the plan gets tweaked. And it makes me tear my hair out — if I had any hair — to watch people line up to complain about the city trying to solve a problem one way without offering another way to solve that problem.

Which is where my new rule would come in.

Our Letters to the Editor frequently are filled with complaints. That's okay; I'm pleased to offer a forum for people to air their grievances. That's true even when they're complaining about me — that means they are reading.

But, and I think this is a pretty big but, just saying you don't like something seldom does anything but give you indigestion. Hey, it's even okay if you think there's no need for a change, that the cure is worse than the disease, that the status quo is fine. But at least say so. 

When complaining about the glacial pace of change, particularly here in California, I have to admit that my public servant friends make sense when they argue it results in a better plan, or it is important to give people a chance to register their opposition. I've even seen a few times where the process has actually improved the ultimate result.

You might have heard this little gem — "If you're not part of the solution, you're a part of the problem." I'm not sure I would go that far, but maybe with an edit or two.

"If you can't do anything but complain, you're making the problem worse."

A few years ago, our illustrious City Council instituted a rule that when a member brought forward a new program, it had to be accompanied by a funding source. That caused more than one reality check. They're still sort of trying to do that, but that "fiscal impact" line is glossed over in more and more agenda items.

I bring that up only because I see a parallel with our new no complaining rule. If you want a change (or want everything to stay the same), explain how it is going to happen. That should be simple enough.

I've written before about the "No Whining" sign on my desk. Some see that sign as ironic, since I see part of my job as pointing out problems. But as I mature (I'm almost up to 30 in maturity years now), I've been better about offering solutions along with pointing out problems.

It's about time society — and Long Beach — do the same.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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