Wonk This!

A policy wonk is an expert in current or proposed government policies and their effects. I had to look up that term during the 2005 elections in Cincinnati because I was going to use it in a story and I had to make sure I used it correctly.

While getting excited about public policy is not likely to get anyone elected to council, writing and implementing effective policy is the only thing that’s going to make a difference for Cincinnati. Mayor Mark Mallory is right about one thing, the problems of this city won’t be solved quickly. Nor will they be solved by policies that don’t address the problems politicians claim they will.

The “research” that went into the latest marijuana ordinance consisted of a list of laws from Kentucky and Indiana. I’m no policy wonk, but I am a research geek (the weird breed of person who enjoys doing research) and I can tell you that ain’t research. That’s a rationalization for a policy that hasn’t been proven to work.

If Councilman Cecil Thomas had bothered to put effort into his proposal beyond asking the cops to prepare a list, he would have found a myriad of data that proves tougher penalties do nothing to distribution, sale or use of pot or any other illegal substance. Here’s an easy one by some academic research geeks: Marijuana Law Enforcement in the United States .

Pick any other topic of public policy — managed competition, labor unions, trash collection, traffic light bulb selection, citizen oversight of police, county/city economic development collaboration — it’s been studied and put into practice all over the world. Businesses call them “best practices,” and common sense suggests it’s not wasting time or money reinventing the wheel.

I think policy makers should be required to document their policies — prove that somewhere at some point in time this thing they want to make law actually had some positive impact.

When I write a story, I have to be able to substantiate every fact and attribute every comment. If I don’t have proof or independent verification, it doesn’t go into print. That seems to be a reasonable standard for politicians to meet, especially given that most aren’t policy wonks and our future success or failure is largely dependent on their policies.

— Margo Pierce

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3 Comments on “Wonk This!”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    and who ordains the wonks in our city government? the policy proposers? well i feel better then.
    ~sB

  2. WestEnder Says:

    One would think that a former police officer would have a better idea of what works and doesn’t work to reduce crime, or at least know how to find the information.

    Sadly, it’s yet another example of CPD’s stubbourn refusal to be a reality-based organization.

  3. dave gallaher Says:

    Margo,
    I’m watching Braveheart on DVD from the library this weekend. (It’s almost 3 hours long.)
    As the Scottish clans were divided in Braveheart, marijuana will always be the wedge Drug Warriors will use to keep those of us who want to end the War on Drugs divided.
    Lately I’ve taken more and more to using the example of the repeal of Prohibition to get the point across.
    I mean, alcohol: there’s a dangerous drug! (I’m having a touch as I tap.)
    But the end of Prohibition was simultaneously the end of Prohibition-related violence.
    Prohibition caused more harm than alcohol.
    Facts are facts.

    Did you realize the “Roaring Twenties” were called “roaring” because of the violence associated with Prohibition?
    If they had been called the “Rapping Twenties,” maybe we’d get the message?
    Nah…
    Society is condemned to keep repeating shooting itself in its foot, heart, and other places bullets tend to land.


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