Why do we have such a difficult time doing the right thing? Take the Israelis and the Palestinians, for example. Everyone knows the final deal: Israel stops building settlements and abandons those currently in the West Bank; allows free passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; cedes part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians; and puts the Holy Places in that city under UN aegis. The Palestinians foreswear violence; recognize Israel; and punish those who commit terrorism. Simple, isn’t it? The same inability to do the right thing exists in Sacramento. As long as the extremes of both parties stake out intransigent positions, the legislative process grinds to a halt. California used to be, and probably still is, an ever-so-slightly-to-the-left-of-middle state. Now we find our legislators in thrall to the extremes of both political parties. One Valley-based assemblyman told me that he has to vote a certain way because his party’s caucus would never support anything he would propose in the future if he didn’t vote as he was told. Wouldn’t it be great to have Sacramento legislators who voted solely based on what was best for their constituents and for all the people of California? Who knows, they might even come up with a fair approach to redistricting (remember that one, promised to us by Fabian Nunez, et al.?), a budget deficit of monumental proportions, an educational system worthy of the most backward of Southern states (no names here), and infrastructure and water problems approaching critical. Closer to home, there are the denizens of City Hall that 28-story building whose tower is composed of concrete made with sand from each of California’s 58 counties mixed with water from our 21 Missions. Do we honestly think we have a City Council composed of people dedicated to doing the right thing? Or are they doing what will get them elected to their next position? I know of one city council member (good news: he’s not from the Valley) who admitted that he had to vote a certain way on a key issue because he sits next to a councilman who holds a strong position on that issue not because he necessarily shares that opinion. Here in the Valley, wouldn’t it be productive to hold reasoned, rational discussions regarding development projects, such as the five proposed projects that begin at NBC Universal and go west? Of course not. Most people don’t bother to make themselves knowledgeable they just have opinions based on who knows what? Perhaps Bill Cosby’s line is operative here: “A word to the wise ain’t necessary it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.” And then there’s the recent Holy Cross Hospital brouhaha. Only a na & #271;f would think that all those who weighed in so vociferously were only concerned with patient care. But let us not just shine the light of scorn on institutions and elected officials. What kind of citizens are we? Look at our own Presidential race. We make negative comments about John McCain because of his age, Hilary Rodham Clinton because of her gender, and Barack Obama because of his race. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just focus on who would make the best President in these troubled times? And how many of those who speak with the most vigor will not even bother to vote in November? And why do property owners have so little regard for their neighborhoods that they create those out-of-scale mansions that overshadow the lot and the community. Drive south on Hayvenhurst Avenue in Encino and take a look at the new “mansion” at the corner of Adlon Road 11,500 square feet of monstrous (couldn’t think of a nicer word) house on a lot that shouldn’t hold more than a 4,000-square-foot home. And why do people put up signs for garage sales and fail to take them down afterward? And why do shoppers leave shopping carts in the street? And when will Ralphs and Gelson’s across the Valley really take a leadership position in getting people to bring their own cloth bags instead of helping add to landfill burdens with “paper or plastic”? And finally, a question for those who put up signs on telephone and street poles advertising Christmas lights installation: Are your signs left over from last December, or are you getting an early start on Christmas 2008? It’s easier to ask questions than to provide answers. “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” , Eleanor Roosevelt Martin Cooper is president of Cooper Communications, Inc., president of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission, founding president of The Executives, and vice chairman of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley. He is a past chairman of VICA, past president of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and past president of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .