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Are Your Elected Officials Asleep On The Job?

Friday, Apr. 29, 2011

We’ve heard a lot lately about air traffic controllers falling asleep at work. They join a long list of other professionals who have this job-related challenge. Who are these sleep-deprived individuals? Long-haul truck drivers, medical residents and interns, and – don’t laugh – elected officials.

Speaking from experience, it is nearly impossible to focus on the details of a complex municipal bond offering at 2 a.m. It is even more difficult to have an intelligent discussion and make a decision, no matter how hard you tried to stay awake.

Late-night meetings are a standard in some communities, and a rarity in others. Lots of factors come into play. Is there a public hearing with a packed council chambers of speakers? Did the elected officials make long speeches instead of asking pertinent questions? Were there too many coffee breaks? Or did the agenda have too many items to cover in a reasonable amount of time?

The phenomenon occurs at all levels of government. Redistricting decisions in state capitols have been made in the wee hours of the morning. And more than one key vote has taken place in Congress before the sun had a chance to rise.

What is the solution? It would be simple to say “better time management,” but I know that is not the answer. We need to urge our  legislators to accept that science shows we all function better when we have a good night’s sleep. We think more clearly, are more articulate, and have overall better health.

Who knows? Maybe with a few more hours of sleep there will be fewer cranky legislators and better legislation.

Tags: city council agendas, Congress, sleep deprivation

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