GUEST COLUMN: The good news and the bad news |

GUEST COLUMN: The good news and the bad news

The city has responded to the Grand Jury’s allegations of incompetence on the part of the City Council. The good news is that outgoing city manager Jenkins has crafted an interesting 20-page reply. The bad news is he agrees with the charges of incompetency and, I quote, “There has been conduct by some members of the City Council that is not professional and ethical…” he goes on to add, “Council members and senior staff are unwilling or afraid to address and deal with the existing hostile work environment.”

While that alone is enough to make you wonder, he goes on to say, “There has been fear in the past among some city council members and some members of the staff to act or not in certain circumstances out of fear of retaliation by certain other members of the City Council on them personally or on their families.”

It has always been my position that we need to elect people on actual ability – you know, a track record, not just pleasant or agreeable personalities; but this means electing people with opinions, and real direction, something this city seems to be afraid of.

There was a recent letter to the editor that suggested that the salary was why we don’t get good people. We only pay council members $450 a month and if we raised it to $1,500 we would get better choices. I disagree; I can tell you from 50 years of experience, it’s not the money. People who have reached a level of success in life, who have demonstrated their ability, have already made it. They are former CEOs and leaders and they don’t need the money, and are not inspired by it.

The real issue is the personal attacks, most of the time, with blogs so popular, made up of unfounded charges, innuendo and lies. Really successful people are unwilling to subject themselves and their families to the kind of stuff that’s posted on the Internet mostly by fools. I have been accused of everything, by people who hide behind Web names.

Whenever I talk to a person who might make a qualified candidate, the first thing they say is, “No way would I put up with what you do in public office.” I know Truman said, if you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen. The issue is the heat about what? For example, when I talk about Sierra Boulevard and how we could turn that in to a beautiful street with landscaping, bike trails, and, best of all, affordable housing, instead of a debate on the merits, all we had was an attack on if I really knew John Denver or not.

We have another shot at it: 11 candidates for City Council. Several are concerned about restoring grass to the commercial structure of our city. I join them on the issue. How we can ban grass, when it has maybe killed three people and really helps cancer patients through chemo, and allow alcohol that kills 500,000 a year is beyond me. We tried this once in the ’20s, it was called prohibition, and what was created was the cruelest criminal period in our history. Looks familiar to me: what we call the war on drugs has resulted in that most of us are afraid to visit Mexico this year. Do you really think you can legislate morality?

As a famous leader once said, “Let he who has not sinned throw the first stone.” This issue alone is not enough; we need leaders willing to go to Washington, Sacramento, and wherever it takes, to get our economy going, not well-meaning as they may be, single-issue types without real qualifications. My test is, “Would you want this person to manage your retirement funds?”

– Ted Long is a former planning commissioner, City Council member and past president of the Sacramento division of the League of California Cities.

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