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Letter: Time for Columbus to go down smoother road

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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: Laurie Booher


Over the past few weeks a number of letters in The Republic have commented on the ongoing battle regarding the mayor’s decision to demote Parks Director Ben Wagner. Those who are the mayor’s supporters argue she acted within her power.

Others, including the City Council and evidently the Parks Board are not so certain and have asked for outside guidance to help clarify the issues and the law. The council, and especially Jim Lienhoop, have been the targets of some of the harshest criticism for trying to ensure that all city employees are treated fairly.

The Republic has come in for its share of criticism as well for being too critical of the mayor. It may surprise some that The Republic has also been criticized for not being critical enough. A recent writer suggested that it is time that the council and mayor work together.

Columbus has always worked well when we have worked together. Unfortunately, that is not now the case.

Harry Truman famously pronounced that “the buck stops here.” Everything good, bad or indifferent rests on the chief executive’s desk. Those who serve the public well understand this simple concept.

They also understand that in order to succeed, they need the cooperation and assistance of many others, from employees and volunteers to members of the business community. To believe that you can act independently of others who are also stakeholders is to misjudge one’s authority and the public’s confidence.

The manner in which Wagner was demoted brings this to full light. Even if the mayor acted within her powers, it amply demonstrates the dangers of acting without consideration to other stakeholders. In this case, neither members of the Parks Board nor City Council were notified prior to the mayor taking action.

Given the offenses that the mayor cited to justify the demotion, it would certainly have been better judgment to inform and seek consensus. Perhaps she overlooked the possibility that she, too, was responsible. Or maybe, the buck just doesn’t stop at her desk.

During the last mayoral election campaign much was made of the value of an advanced degree and business experience. A recent letter to The Republic commented on this business skill as being an asset to the community.

All the education and business experience in the world can’t make up for a lack of leadership awareness when it comes to dealing with employees, other elected officials and business leaders. We all want to be treated with respect, valued for the work we do and spoken to with civility. This is not what we are getting out of City Hall.

Stories are emerging about abusive language, intimidation of staff and employees, and terminations and demotions in excess of the accusations leveled to justify.

Before expecting others to act with decorum and civility, perhaps those who continually find themselves at the center of the storm should first expect it of themselves.

For those who claim to have been taught to “always take the high road,” it’s time to check the road map. The rest of us are all along for the ride until the next election. Here’s hoping for a smoother road ahead.

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