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And we often don't notice our public systems and structures until they malfunction. A busted traffic signal gets more attention than a functioning one, in the same way we notice potholes more than smooth stretches of road, failing bridges more than safe ones, corrupt public servants more than those who do the job we elected them to do. While a broken water conduit is a rare occurrence, it grabs headlines in ways that the well-functioning water system we’ve depended on all our lives ever could.
This is why it’s much more likely that our friends and neighbors will have a negative view of government than a positive one.
Overcoming the challenge
There’s no magic bullet that will overcome the public’s negative views of government. But an incident like the water crisis offers us an opportunity.
When the public is able to see the systems and structures built and maintained by government, it counters the view of government as an amorphous bureaucracy. And when government responds to a crisis, like the one we’re in, it helps underscore the mission and purpose of government as the entity we have built to manage and protect our systems and structures.
When our water system developed a breach, our state government was able to tap into a system of back-up reservoirs to maintain the water pressure our system needs to fight fires and flush toilets. And while that water is not as clean as the water we normally depend on in our system, the systems our government put in place made sure extra chlorine was added to fight contamination.
Next, our city government made phone calls to residents and set public safety officials to every street to make sure residents knew there was a boil water alert in effect.
And most importantly, our government responded quickly, locating the leak within hours and fixing it to restore safe drinking water.
The speedy actions taken by state government helped prevent what could have been an costly public health disaster./a>)