Originally published September 16, 2011 at 3:03 PM | Page modified September 16, 2011 at 4:46 PM

Ryan Blethen / Times editorial columnist

Time for thoughtful discussion around the future of government at all levels

The long-lingering economic downturn is affecting government at all levels, underscoring the need for long-term efforts to retool government to the new reality. Editorial page editor Ryan Blethen discusses The Seattle Times editorial board's new conversation, "Just Fix It."

Times editorial page editor

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The intractable, sophomoric politics that has come to define this era is nothing new. Americans have been dealing with such bursts of dysfunction since the beginning of the republic.

The current problems are compounded by media, mostly cable news, that amplify the players who are already shouting the loudest with little substance to justify the volume.

There is a need for places where thoughtful political discussion can happen. From the United States Capitol to state capitols, county councils, television programs, newspapers, bars and coffee shops — all should be places where we can work toward good governance.

The Seattle Times editorial board is going to create one of those places. Really, it is part of what we do daily, but the Just Fix It initiative focuses the dialogue in a way that can help on both the local and federal levels.

Just Fix It is an extension of the editorial board's Reset project that began in June of 2010 and ran through the legislative session.

For Reset we used a set of criteria for endorsing candidates and positions. We believed there were some specific issues — such as fiscal responsibility, leadership and commitment to education — that candidates needed to address and the Legislature needed to work on.

This project is similar but more prescriptive and will suggest paths that could invigorate the economy, regulators and a free press. We will be focusing on three areas — federal, state, county — where the old way of doing things is not working anymore.

The project kicks off with a look at the federal deficit-reduction committee. We also want Just Fix It to be a place for readers to reach out to politicians so, in addition to our suggestions, we will publish what readers are saying.

On Oct. 2, we will offer recommendations for the state, and then the county on Oct. 16. Just Fix It will not end there. The project will run at least through the 2012 legislative session and possibly next year's elections.

Sen. Patty Murray, a member of the deficit-reduction committee, said at the group's first hearing on Sept. 8, "... while none of us will ever set aside or betray our principles — we must keep in mind there is much more that binds us as Americans than divides us, and we must all be open to compromise and to the ideas and viewpoints of others."

Those words embody what we are attempting. It is our obligation as a newspaper to identify solutions and stimulate thoughtful civil discussion.

Ryan Blethen's column appears on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is:; follow him on Twitter @RyanBlethen.


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