I'm reluctant to call the U.S. government dysfunctional because I've seen it work well on tough issues -- like the 1990 budget deal and several issues of foreign policy. Last summer's fight over the debt limit increase was a powerful counter example, but even there the eventual agreement was reasonable.
I was heartened this week by a local development in my little town of University Park, MD. Here is some of the background. A developer wants rezoning in order to develop a large, forested site that has been abandoned since a World War II aircraft factory closed. It has the advantage of being in-fill -- within the beltway and accessible to Metro --rather than suburban sprawl. It has high-level political support because the developer promises to bring a Whole Foods store, as well as a hotel and other commercial establishments as well as residential units.
My town has no legal say since the property is part of a neighboring town, Riverdale Park, but it would be greatly impacted, especially under the original proposal that placed the single point of entry and exit for the development on an already crowded road directly across from our own street. Many of us were greatly alarmed at the prospects of traffic gridlock, destroyed green space, and more crowded schools.
Instead of adopting a simple NIMBY attitude, several of the town's officials worked with surrounding communities and got the developer to agree to very stringent conditions, including building another exit road over some railroad tracks. The deal has some uncertainties and the project will still be disruptive to us, but it shows that when people share their concerns and work to find reasonable accommodations, government can solve problems.