Matt deGrood

As the saying goes, a journalist should always strive for balance. Except that’s not quite true.

Instead, the best reporter should aim for an open mind, to treat everyone fairly, and to always strive for the truth.

The difference between the two might seem small, but the distance between the two contains multitudes. And more than just good advice for those of us in the journalism industry, it’s good to keep in mind for all of us seeking to be good, informed citizens.

All too often, we approach a new problem with our various political biases. How we interpret solutions depends on our worldview. But many times, the problem is more complicated than a simple solution.

Finding the best solutions usually means digging past the partisan slogans to the heart of the matter. It means approaching each conversation with an open mind, but a list of probing questions.

A few recent events in Fort Bend County have made me think what it means to strive for the truth. In each case, those involved would be best served putting aside their political ideologies, and considering the specifics of a situation.

The first came a few weeks ago when we were writing about extended unemployment benefits and the problem many local businesses were having finding employees to fill open positions.

Several months earlier, a significant number of businesses and chambers of commerce had lobbied Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, sure that if he were to eliminate higher-than-usual unemployment benefits, people would come back to the labor force in droves. But fast-forward to now, and one can’t drive far in Fort Bend County without seeing a plethora of help-wanted signs displayed above businesses.

Why didn’t ending the benefits work? Everyone had been so certain of the plan.

Even before those unemployment benefits ended, it’s long been clear that we’re living in unprecedented times. The pandemic forced work closures in ways that haven’t been attempted before, but the time off work also gave U.S. citizens the chance to consider what work means to them for the first time in recent memory.

The results of that soul-searching have been fascinating, both in an academic sense and what it means for the future of work. And finding a solution will take thinking outside of the box.

Why aren’t people rushing back to the jobs they held before March 2020? The answer, as experts we spoke to laid out, is complicated. Some might have retired, some might have different reasons and still others have found careers in entirely new industries.

Finding lasting solutions requires an open dialogue between employer and prospective employee. What reasonable steps can business owners take to become more appealing to those who might be searching for work? And what should employees and those searching for work know about the struggles of small business owners? It’s not clear those conversations are happening, but they’re absolutely critical if we are to ever end the labor shortage.

And putting aside our political ideologies and engaging in honest conversation might also be apt in this week’s story about Stafford’s finances. From the moment I arrived in Fort Bend County, I’ve heard Stafford residents speak about their lack of city property taxes as a point of pride. It’s hard to imagine anyone willingly voting to rescind them at this point.

Yet, as we reported, the city might soon find itself in a financial crunch, because of its years-long effort to delay needed capital projects and the rising cost of doing business in 2021. Is the solution to institute a property tax?

I’m not a financial expert, but at least several intelligent people seem to think so.

At the very least, it seems residents need to have a much-needed conversation about Stafford’s decades-long dedication to a small-government frame of thinking. As many of those raising concerns in the article said, no one hates the idea of zero property taxes. But at what point does sacrificing for the future outweigh low taxes? It’s a question well worth asking.

In both the case of extended unemployment benefits and low taxes, it’s only by putting aside a dedication to politics and asking hard questions that we’re likely to reach any sort of lasting solution.

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