Nationally and locally, voters didn’t just elect new governments on Nov. 4. They opened the door to new roles for government.

The collapse of major financial institutions brought into sharp focus the need for government regulation of the marketplace. Contractor boondoggles — from U.S. Army medical care to San Diego potholes and consultant waste — dampened enthusiasm for privatizing government services. And everywhere the growing toll in illness, death and family bankruptcies added to the demand for government to step in and reform our dysfunctional healthcare system.

This is where the hard-line ideologues start screaming “Socialism!” and “Big government!” But those old scare tactics are losing their punch. Exit polls as well as election results show people increasingly realize there are things we want that none of us can pay for alone: libraries, parks, disaster relief, investment insurance, and maybe even basic healthcare for all.

From the president on down, this election brought to our public offices a new consciousness about the desperate need for substantial infrastructure funding, heightened oversight of business practices, and a government role in increasing access to healthcare.

Traditionally conservative San Diego County voted a solid 54 percent for Obama. It was the first time a Democratic presidential candidate got more than half our county’s vote since FDR was reelected 64 years ago.

Voters throughout the region approved tax funding to meet common needs, including all seven school bond measures on ballots in the county and sales taxes to fund basic city services in La Mesa, El Cajon and National City. Even the under-promoted parcel tax for regional fire protection got 63 percent of the vote, but failed because it needed two-thirds.

The San Diego City Council will enter 2009 with a strong majority of progressive thinkers who give top priority to the needs of low- and moderate-income families, strengthening our communities and creating good jobs with healthcare coverage.

San Diego will be ready as the opportunities grow for collaboration among governments. President-elect Obama brings what the Center for American Progress calls a “pro-city perspective” that the presidency hasn’t seen in decades, and plans to create a White House Office of Urban Policy. “He understands that the local level is really where you can impact change, and that local government can play a vital role as we try to jump start our economy,” said key advisor Valerie Jarrett.

The still-deteriorating economic crisis makes it all the more imperative for our governments at all levels to take the lead in rebuilding stronger communities where everyone can prosper.

— Susan Duerksen

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