Politics – Let the Games Begin

My position as a Town Council member is non-partisan. There is no party affiliation question on the application form. As I am learning, that doesn’t mean there isn’t politics!

The Issues

  • Our police department has and continues to advocate switching to a Maryland State retirement program. This includes the threat that half the force (total staff 22, 18 sworn officers) will leave if the retirement benefit is not changed. The police retirement demand is in the context of increasing crime (gun violence) in the town. There is a lingering bitterness and resentment why this issue was not resolved by prior councils.
  • The previous council, in April, within a month of leaving office, passed enabling legislation allowing the town to enter into a develper rights and responsibilties agreement (DRRA) for land development projects. This was significant because one week later the town received a DRRA for a residential project. The draft DRRA is from the land owner of a site annexed into the town 25 years ago. No plan has ever been prepared. It was submitted to jump start needed water/sewer infrastructure they claim was partially funded by them. At the last Planning Commisssion and Town Council meeting on May 5, five days before I took office, no action was taken on the proposed DRRA. In early June, our Town Attorney recieved a letter from the developer’s local attorney, demanding all town records from their project be preserved. This is in advance of a lawsuit, likely on the basis of due process.

We now own these issues as the new council.

Source: CNBC

The Politics

At both our council work sessions and (2nd,3rd Tuesdays) and business meeetings (4th Tuesday), there is an agnda item, Public Comment. Any person in attendance (now still virtually) has three minutes to state their name, if a town resident and the provide their comments. If appropriate, council members and staff can answer questions.

At a work session in early June, several residents and police officers spoke and supported the police department’s desire for a new reitirement system. One individual was not a town resident, but a business owner and current president of the town business association. He read a letter of suppport for the new police reitirement system and “challenged” the council to appoint a blue-ribbon commission of experts to study and then forward their recommendations for a new retirement benefit.

This seems resonable, until I met with this individual to hear his concerns and issues, in his role as business association president. During our conversation, he again urged the appointment of the blue-ribbon restirement commission, but added – if it fails, you (the council) have “political cover” to blame the commission. I find this odd and frankly what then is his real motive. It gets better – read on!

Then earlier this week, the same person calls me demanding to know why the council has not resppnded to a letter from the developer’s attorney about no action taken on the draft DRRA. I responded that the town would be sued and therefore no response had been developed yet. He responded that it was stretch and a leap to assume we would be sued. I disagreed and he then revealed his question was in response to a call to (or from) the developer’s local attorney.

I suggested to him to be careful about making demands and accusations without first verifying the facts. Our conversation then got arugumentative and heated. After a pause and deep breath, we agreed to disagree and he would be calling the mayor and other council members. That is certainly his right.

On the police issue, I’m not sure if he was actually speaking on behalf of the business association or his own personal opinions and views. I have serious doubts if his board of directors authorized him to write the letter in support of the police and then present it at a council work session.

Follow-up; Several hours later, the Mayor called and told me that she had called this individual. There was a town response to the local attorney through two phone calls in early June.

I now also question his his integrity and motives, by making demands and accusations, without first checking the facts about the DRRA issue. He just took the attorney’s word that the town had not responded, when in fact the mayor did with two phone calls. Perhpas, that was not good enough in his mind, but it was a response. I have recommended to the mayor that our legal council prepare a written response.

Source: The Basilisk International Basel Student News

Lessons Learned

  • Grow a thick skin; don’t take it personally
  • Listen more, talk less; we have two ears and one mouth!
  • Take a deep breath before responding to questions, accusation and demands
  • I will make mistakes, learn and move on
  • I read this for perspsective:

Ignore the Critics; Do the Work!
(Excerpt from The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon)

Positive leaders don’t lead because they want recognition or enemies. They lead because there is something they must do, build, create, transform, and change. They lead because it’s who they are and what they are meant to do. However, with leadership comes scrutiny, praise, critics, and attacks. A leader could find a cure for cancer and would still have some people criticize them for it. There was even once a leader who transformed the world by feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and loving the unlovable, and yet he was killed for it. If you are a leader, expect to be attacked. Positive leadership doesn’t mean you won’t be criticized. It means you have the grit and belief to overcome it. Positive leaders don’t lead in a tranquil sea of positivity, but through the storms of adversity and negativity.

Leadership is knowing that the critics will criticize you while still saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done. History doesn’t remember the critics. It remembers the one who withstood criticism to accomplish something great.

In our modern social-media–driven world, you will have more fans and critics than ever. The keys are: Don’t let praise go to your head and don’t let critics into your head. Be so invested in your craft that you don’t have time to listen to the naysayers. No time for negativity. You’re too busy creating the future. If I would have listened to the naysayers and critics, I would have stopped working on my craft years ago. I want to encourage you to never let the opinion of others define you and your future. Your identity doesn’t come from what the world says about you. It comes from who you are on the inside. Your work, leadership, and mission are too important to allow others to define your destiny.

No matter what anyone says, just show up and do the work.
If they praise you, show up and do the work.
If they criticize you, show up and do the work.
If no one even notices you, just show up and do the work.
Just keep showing up, doing the work, and leading the way.

Lead with passion.
Fuel up with optimism.
Have faith.
Power up with love.
Maintain hope.
Be stubborn.
Fight the good fight.
Refuse to give up.
Ignore the critics.
Believe in the impossible.
Show up.
Do the work.
You’ll be glad you did.
True grit leads to true success.

I have and will continue to read this passge, as I expect many more challenges.

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