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Letter: Government, recapture leadership fundamentals

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Richard Gold


To the editor:

Whether the mayor has the right to demote the parks director will be determined by our legal system. It’s the least of our concerns surrounding this decision.

How decisions are made is highly troubling. Three charges have been leveled. The director was responsible for and didn’t collect rent in The Commons. This is a case of many cooks in the kitchen and no one who understood what was even on the menu. The handoff was virtually invisible and the logic questionable.

To pick the parks director out of this cluster is totally inappropriate. Next: He misused credit cards for board meals and a Christmas staff gathering. By the mayor’s own admission, these meals remain common practice. These expenditures were approved by the Parks Board and the city attorney who ate at the very table. Next: The parks director didn’t spend enough to maintain the parks. The budget for capital and maintenance is determined by the mayor and City Council.

What is public record: Parks usage is up 36 percent in the last five years. Taxpayer support is down 18 percent, falling almost $1 million per annum from 2008 to 2013. User payments are up $500,000 per year and private funding is up $2.75 million. Parks customer satisfaction is very high.

The primary cause for alarm: Is there a capable decision process? Who is consulted, who is involved, are opposing views welcomed, what concerns are balanced and are all the facts on the table? Is there even a table?

Knowledge and judgment are not vested in a single individual. They emerge from a robust and inclusive process of opposing views before decisions are made. In this case the dots don’t connect. The parks director had a positive evaluation only weeks earlier.

Consequences of a bad decision process are many. Columbus can be exposed to significant financial liability, as a local attorney made clear at the last council meeting. And capable and thoughtful people ask the question: Do I want to place myself at risk, to be subject to a similar lack of process?

The count of qualified city employees and board volunteers who say no is regrettably high; several of whom were appointed by the present mayor. These are not “good old boys.” This is a mix of veteran and new, competent women and men who decided the process or absence of one is not a proper environment for serving the people.

Respect for each other: How do the personnel details to demote a city director end up in the paper and simultaneously his personal judgment and integrity are publicly questioned? Absent supporting facts or a good process, what is his or anyone’s process for redress?

It places everyone in untenable positions.

The end goal is long term: to ensure the quality of life we enjoy by encouraging business investment and job creation here; to develop confidence so citizens are willing to invest in public assets ($2.75 million in parks); and to collaborate across boundaries, private and public, to secure our future.

We have seen previous mayoral administrations slowly build this confidence equity, encouraging this investment. It is undergirded by good process, data, collaborative, respectful behavior and a long-term view. Let’s recapture these fundamentals of leadership.

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