These are challenging times and if we ever needed real leaders, well, now be the time. President John F. Kennedy was fond of (mis)quoting Dante but the sentiment is unforgettable and maybe even more pertinent now: “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.” The real quote
What passes for leadership now in the public sector are timidity, passivity and faux sincerity. With acrimony and sanctimony the modus operandi in congress we are happy when a member merely keeps his pants on or her profits public.
Author Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great and Great by Choice, has studied and written extensively on successful organizations with an intense focus on leadership. While he primarily focuses on what makes transformative and truly effective leaders, some skills are unimportant, even dangerous. These are likewise critical to identify, and equally important to avoid. Personal charisma is exactly one of those traits.
Amiable and charming are sometimes alluring distractions from decisiveness, integrity, and even harsh realism. According to Jim Collins great leaders are “paranoid performers.” They’re always asking, “What if,” and then preparing for it. They think about and anticipate the day of “bad things.”
On Friday I, and others in at least my neighborhood, was the recipient of a flyer delivered intending to influence my vote for Mayor of Olympia. The flyer, likely delivered in the middle of the night, was on my doorstep and completely anonymous with absolutely no indication of who produced or delivered it.
The flyer, actually an 8/15 by 11 while piece of paper probably produced on the coward’s computer, attempts to convince us why we should vote against Buxbaum. The piece contains nothing at all about any issue before (now or ever) the council, or Buxbaum’s record on the Council. It is merely an alleged recitation of Buxbaum’s state employment history. Haven’t we been here before? Oh, yes I remember, last time he ran for the Council – and won.
This is nothing new in politics or Olympia. Last time he ran a similar attempt occurred and was completely irrelevant in the election. When Jeff Kingsbury ran he was the subject of a similar act of cowardice when someone or some group delivered a veiled attempt to expose his sexual preference – apparently as some sort of disqualification of his fitness for office.
The best thing Buxbaum can do is laugh at this feeble attempt at cheating. That is what it is after all. These people are pissed off that he has won before and likely will win again and because they can’t win at the ballot box they will, and are trying anything.
Right after the primary, as expected, the invisible and illusive candidate, Council member Rhenda Strub appeard to begin her campaign to win relection. While I'm guessing that she may have some signs at the actual homes of real people who vote, I've seen countless signs only in public rights-of-way.
Sure, she may be allowed to do that, as is everyone, but two important questions are raised: 1) Isn't that a lazy way of "campaigning" which indicates a paucity of support from actual Olympia citizens?, and, 2) isn't it also a kind of sign graffiti and visual pollution?
I notice virtually every other candidate has the vast majority of their signs at actual Olympia homes representing the views of the homeowner. In Rhenda's case it appears merely the fruits of a late night sign drop wherever "public" property exists which can hold a sign.
Is this representative of her views on public space? On her actual suuport?
I haven’t posted here in quite a while because; well...frankly I tired of both the anonymity and the trite and personal nature of some of the posts. I hope to here incite a discussion about local democracy and look forward to a resulting dialogue.
I read today the current issue of the “Thurston County Democrat” August 2011 Edition. As I read it I felt like I was reading didactic and strident assertions that the sky was purple - when everyone can see it’s blue.
First a couple of disclaimers: I have known Stewart Henderson for some time and consider him a friend. I not only happily voted for Obama in 2008 but I will absolutely vote for him in 2012.
Having actually served in elective office in Olympia, after many years of legal, policy and political experience, I realized that unless and until the public believe in the public sector’s ability to move the ball forward, fundamental change is all but impossible. Must have faith in Government to support change
In the current edition of the Thurston Dem’s paper the cover is an exhortation to support Dem’s with a reference to the Republicans in Congress as the reason the debt extension “debate” was more a comic opera than a reasoned policy discussion. Of course the Chair of the Dem’s is right that the Republican’s in Congress have “…entered into an utter free fall into complete irresponsibility”. But it is quite clear to anyone watching that while the President acquiesced to right wing ideological fantasy and failed to use the bold leadership he himself promised, the Senate which is “controlled” by the Democrats simply would not include taxes in their bill.
It was from 2001 until 2008 that I served on the Olympia School Board, when I resigned with one year left in my second and final (self imposed) term. Many people have commiserated with my service on the board and have wondered aloud “how did you do it?” As tempting as it is to sing the woe-is-me blues the truth is this disengagement (yes, even contempt) serves only to perpetuate the disconnect between those who make education policy and, well, everyone else.
Recently a friend, highly educated and involved in local civic organizations, said to me that “since you and Bob (Shirley) left I don’t hear anything about the school board”. That of course is exactly how some on the board prefer it to be. They see their role, as one board member said when I was on the board, as that of “cheerleader” for the district. While a public policy maker should not seek publicity merely for the sake of publicity, nor should one do contortions to avoid it at any cost. The problem is that is bad for this community… and bad for Democracy.
The purpose of a board of directors for the school district is not dissimilar to that of boards in the private and non-profit sectors. It’s a check and balance so that shareholders (or the public) are assured that some group with the knowledge and opportunity to protect their interests is doing the due diligence necessary.
Yes, I have written about why Denny Heck will not receive my vote and how his campaign is little more than a You Tube of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee faxes from DC. But please read on as I hope this dialogue will benefit from (intelligent and productive) comments from other viewpoints.
Let me first say that I have no reason to believe that Mr. Heck lacks integrity or is any way dishonest or is dishonorable.
Some articulate that is enough. Case closed. Because Herrera is unqualified to lead and is so far on the extreme right, on virtually every issue, the fact the Mr. Heck is a D and he is not a criminal is enough to justify a vote for him.
Another view often argued is that because Congress can (will?) go R this next session every seat is critical and one (who wants and cares about the D’s – as opposed to the Tea Party/R’s writing our laws) must support every D running for election. I not only recognize the validity of that argument but in other races on this very ballot I am voting for candidates I feel are not really worthy of the office but because I would rather the office to be held by a D I will hold my nose and vote for them.
The biennial and quadrennial debate between those described (usually by the other side) as idealists vs. those who consider themselves far more practical about our political system is happening again, maybe with more ferocity than ever before. From tea partiers to disillusioned democrats, whether one should vote for the forecasted winner, despite their sometimes considerable liabilities, in order to further the power of a particular party, is weighing heavy on many peoples minds.
Denny Heck, the winning Democratic candidate in the 3rd District Primary, scored 32% or 44,700 votes, out of 139,000 votes cast. When adding the Republican vote totals (R candidates- 73,700) and comparing it to the votes cast for Democrats (Heck and Crist -60,700) it is clear that candidate Heck has clearly not resonated with voters in the 3rd District. If Mr. Heck wants to win this tough race, he needs to inspire the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He has not done that to date, as evidenced by Cheryl Crist's strong showing (30% of Denny's vote with 3% of Denny's money.
A good start could be to say he would vote only to bring our troops home, and spend not one cent for continued foreign wars.
How do we interact in this new town square called the internet? With all the options one has for information, news and dialogue are we more informed, or smarter, or more empathetic? Are the digital forums an electronic version of the echo chambers that were letters to the editor? What level of personal responsibility is appropriately required or expected of participants?
There are a number of internet “salons” or forums where people practice a “gracious space” (see the Center for Ethical Leadership) share, and hopefully learn on myriad topics. There are certainly those that have developed as a place where thoughtful and courteous users post and read in a true deliberative forum. There are also those that have developed as a sort of graffiti board (like The Olympian comments) where many post personal, irrelevant, gratuitous and/or what appear mere time wasters, and do so anonymously where public debate is actually debased and most thoughtful people simply do not participate while the echo chamber perpetuates itself.
I started posting here as an alternative to both the almost totally worthless local paper and the plethora of personal blogs out there for which one could spend all their waking time reading. What a great idea…a local blog with a calendar, insights on local community events and a place where people can share ideas and opinions in a safe, open and thoughtful place.
Maybe, over time, the local paper will either go away, or get better as a result of the competition.
As a communitarian, I advocate for the need to balance individual rights and interests with that of the community. As such, I have no problem with some rules which though might be viewed as crimping one’s style actually allow for more voices to be heard and encourage more users to share.
Three recent local issues - the use of lap tops at Olympia City Council meetings for private conversations, political assumptions by Jeff Kingsbury during his campaign for re-election, and the arrest of Joe Hyer for possession and selling of marijuana - all point to excessive arrogance by these elected city officials. But their apparent disregard for community concerns and values were given tacit but ample encouragement by how local citizens view and treat not just these politicians but political leaders in general.
As a public we contribute to the politician's sense of self-importance, which often gets expressed through acts of arrogance.
Arrogance, or hubris, often regarded as "the pride that comes before the fall", frequently is the underlying attitude of actions that contribute to the demise of many a public official and/or celebrity.
Beginning I’m sure with the origin of our species, but identified and written about so profoundly in Greek tragedy and law, hubris is as much a problem today as it was a millennia ago.
Last fall, during the isthmus hearing process we learned that certain members of our city council were flirting with each other, ridiculing witnesses, setting up appointments with the lawyer for the developer, seeking a “second” for a motion and doing the public’s business – in private. The actions were likely illegal, and certainly a violation of public trust. These elected officials, showed no contrition or even awareness of what the fuss was about.
In the summer, then-Councilmember Kingsbury was absolutely convinced that the town didn’t care about the isthmus (and apparently instead did care about the lake), and believed he was going to easily win the primary. He was so confident in his own popularity that he misjudged or chose to ignore strong public sentiments.
With the arrest of Joe Hyer, and his subsequent admission of guilt today there is a proliferation of pontificating, proselytizing and politicizing in town and in the blogosphere.
However, the important issue is not the motivation of any “informant”, the political intentions of the sheriff and prosecutor, nor the potential damage to Joe Hyer's political ambitions or career. The real issues are the sustained damage to the fragile relationship between voters and our elected civic leaders and the violation and loss of expectations and trust.
Our community's stability depends not on the veneration of our elected officials but on the bond that develops when citizens give support to other citizens to represent and act on their civic interests. This lamentable situation, like so many others involving political leaders, undermines that special relationship and jeopardizes the commitment and hope of creating a more respected government and prosperous community. It's the voters and the community who suffer from the incredible lack of judgment of a person who had been a respected political figure.
When a public official makes many contributions to his/her community and brings intelligence and foresight to public debates the situation may be emotionally harder but no more ethically complex.
A criminal violation is the ultimate act of selfishness in that one’s lack of discipline and self control results in the chasm that already exists between the public and their representatives growing even larger.
It should not be lost that for progressives who believe in a vibrant and active government, who will not see many electoral or policy successes without INCREASED public trust and confidence in their government, suffer perhaps the greatest impact from the damage done by another failed public official. Conservatives actually work to achieve reduced trust and confidence in our public institutions.