Tuesday, January 29, 2008

School House Rap and a Public Parable

The Chamber of Cowbirds hope the Fayetteville School Board will act hastily and decide to sell the central campus and build a new high school on the outskirts of town before Board member Susan Heil has to face reelection. In his column today, FHS public information officer Alan Wilbourn says school administrators are being told almost daily, “You guys have been chewing on that thing forever. If it was my company, we’d have decided something a long time ago.”

"That’s probably true," Wilbourn acknowledged candidly. "A private organization, which is usually a benevolent dictatorship, doesn’t have to answer to as many constituents as does a school district, so the decision-making process is much more streamlined. In our fishbowl, however, things don’t work that way. Major decisions, such as the one on the future of Fayetteville High School, absolutely require the informed consent of all of the affected parties. ...Building consensus for a public project is a time-consuming process that takes months and sometimes years of effort."

This little vignette is quite telling about a deeper relationship between levels of education, business experience and attitudes, and genuine respect for the opinions of the people of our community. There is almost an inverse relationship between the first two and the last one, which is also the most important. We need experienced leadership at all levels who will listen to the voters and represent their informed views, instead of ignoring us and telling us how smart they are and how they know what's best for us.

"Not Listening"

I'm not listening, not anymore
The more I learn, the more I ignore
I'm not listening, not anymore
The more I hear, the more I ignore
I'm not listening, not anymore, No

-- Papa Roach

Mayor Fred Hanna was a businessman with a business degree, and he was the faithful servant of the Chamber of Commerce. George W. Bush has a Masters degree from Harvard Business School, and he has devoted his two terms in office to tax cuts for the rich and record profits for Halliburton and the big oil companies. Neither cared much for what the people thought, because they were the deciders. Officials with business degrees and business experience do not bode well for the common good and the average citizen.

Mayor Dan Coody has a B.S. in Industrial Technology, and he studied Drilling Fluid Technology with Dow Chemical Corp. Coody’s management and citizen input style was captured by his appointing a Citizen Task Force to develop a plan for Wilson Spring, then totally ignoring its recommendations and selling off the property to developers on his own whim. His promise four years ago to have bi-weekly press conferences, take serious questions from citizens and the media, and give straight answers to the public and their elected aldermen was broken long ago.

If UA Chancellor John White’s leadership is an example, it could be concluded that an engineering degree and corporate experience is equally advantageous for big business but an absolute disaster for the arts and humanities that enrich our culture and enhance the creative community life. Like White, Jeff Koenig has an engineering degree and corporate experience. He has ignored public opinion and has advocated selling off Fayetteville High School, because he knows what’s best – for his developer pals and his Chamber buddies who see money to be made in spending our tax dollars to build out in Wheeler. He just moved here from Goshen a few months ago and wants to be Mayor of Fayettevillle. He already has a plan of what he wants to do to Fayetteville, but he doesn’t have any experience and hasn’t taken the time to listen to what the average citizens are thinking.

We need candidates and public officials who have a little humility and are willing to listen, to learn from their constituents, to represent the whole community, to work for our interests, and to be straight with us about problems, facts, and their views. We deserve Servant Leadership.

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