Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Great Communicator

It was a poorly attended gathering in Springdale sponsored by the Washington County Republican Women, but there was one tough question and some telling answers. The six candidates for Fayetteville mayor were asked what were the most important personal qualities they thought a mayor should have.

Walt Eilers said trust is the most important quality and that he’s a man of his word. Sami Sutton agreed that trust is most important and said that she hates liars. Steve Clark also included the ability to earn the public trust. Lioneld Jordan said one should be responsible for their actions and accountable to the people. Adam Fire Cat said humility was a necessary characteristic.

Dan Coody was not about to concede it necessary that a mayor should have humility, be trustworthy, or be responsible and accountable. No, he went with what he thought was his best personal characteristic and said communication was the most important quality a mayor should possess. I think maybe he meant skill instead of personal quality, but the moderator let it pass.

I doubt that Dan was referring to his skillful but illegal use of his official city cell phone for campaign communications, because he got caught doing that once before and had to write a personal check to pay it back.

Coody probably didn't have in mind his promise four and a half years ago to have regular bi-weekly press conferences, take serious questions from citizens and the media, and give straight answers to the public and their elected aldermen, because that one was was quickly broken and forgotten long ago. Besides, even Greg Harton wasn't fooled by that one.

Then there was the Official Dan Coody Mayor's Blog, paid for with our tax dollars and displayed on the front page of the city's fancy website. Seventeen months ago he said, "I’ll be posting regularly to this site beginning later this week . I intend to use this space to discuss current issues that I believe will be of interest to our citizens." That was another broken promise. He hasn't posted anything in six months, and there are only 20 total entries. There are eight photographs on the blog, and six are pictures of Dan. Heck, Dr. Susan Thomas Ph.D. was getting paid to write the entries, so it couldn't have been too much work. The Mayor's true commitment to communication is starkly revealed by his not allowing citizens to post feedback or ask questions on his blog.

Coody's major communication change in the operations of the city's official Government Channel 16 has been to fire the longtime cable administrator and turn it over to his hand-picked Public Relations Advisor. As a result, Dan has been able to program more of his press conferences trying to explain away the $63 million sewer plant debacle or lying about banishing bottled water from City Hall. The other change he directed at the Government Channel was to abolish the important and popular Public Issue Forums that could be requested by citizens or Aldermen. Not good.

Yes, Dan Coody might be right that his strongest skill is commmunication, but that's not saying much. Consultant Walt Eilers tried to give him some pointers at the Chamber meeting on Friday and advised, "You need to listen. If you're always talking about yourself, you're not listening." In other words, Dan, “It is not about headlines for the mayor,” he added, “It’s about getting the damn job done.”

Sadly, Dan Coody always thought those were the same.

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