Cities, counties and school districts will be facing monumental challenges during the remainder and fast approaching new fiscal year. Basic but critical choices lie ahead for officials and taxpayers alike as priorities are determined and decisions regarding potential changes are decided.

Some entities around the state are already scheduling budget workshops as the reality sets in that revenue amounts and sources are becoming more limited . It is imperative that entities and their governing bodies begin planning as early and as comprehensively as possible to target real needs versus wants, and realize that difficult options are on the table.

With the possibility of even tighter budgets the role of officials will be to set a tone of leadership that represents strength of purpose and responsibility to the greater and best interests of their constituents and the financial stability and sustainability of the entity.

It is easy, perhaps, to make a popular or favored choice or decision when there are adequate revenues or reserves on hand. But the real test or leadership measure is when resources are narrow and restricted. 

Which leads us to the question of unity. With the commemoration of Martin Luther King Day there is much focus on unity. However, what often gets lost and forgotten with Dr King's message is that in order to attempt to achieve justice and civil rights for American minorities it was necessary for him to draw significant attention to negative situations that needed reform. Had King not spoken out about the negatives issues there would not have been opportunities for growth and change for the nation. Similar stories could be told about pioneers in a variety of areas including public health and safety and labor issues. It was through campaigning on the negative....those issues that needed changing, that solutions for improvement were debated and choices made.

Unity can be a double edged sword. Blind support or unity can take us on a road to nowhere. It can also lead us down a path of further damage and disruption.

The bigger question to probe is where are the calls for unity attempting to lead us? Are they guiding us towards the right and best ideas and motives? Or are they tainted by self interest and questionable motives? What we should always be unified behind are the principles of financial realism, fiscal soundness, consensus building, and servant leadership revolving around courage and commitment to the greater public good. Does it offer a true vision of practical and viable plans and recommendations?

Leadership can be faced with making tough and unpopular actions and decisions that can result in breaking a united front and causing dissent and disagreement within a public governing body. The main concern should be good policy decisions and not unity simply for unity's sake. Deliberation must lead us down a road towards solvency and progress. Its called effective democratic government.