From the City Manager 09/23/16
Reprinted with permission of the Independence Daily Reporter
The critics have spoken. Can we move on now?
One of the greatest privileges of living in a free society is the ability to openly speak our opinions.
For months now, that right has been exercised exhaustively by a group of folks in the community who are very vocal and extremely critical of, seemingly, every decision made by City staff and, in particular, by me.
Last night at the City Commission meeting, this opposition group had an opportunity to again air its concerns publicly and even presented a symbolic citizens’ petition calling for the termination of my employment as city manager.
Throughout this campaign, and in facing criticism in the past (it comes with the job), I have offered very little in the way of public response. I have invited those who publicly express their dissatisfaction to meet with me individually in hopes of civil, productive conversation that could lead to solutions. Those invitations have rarely been accepted. I’ve attempted a roundtable “City Chat” discussion to facilitate meaningful dialogue with citizens, but the “meaningful” seemed to get lost again in an exchange of rhetoric.
While I don’t seek the spotlight or an audience, make no mistake, I have felt every stone thrown at me. I have heard every voice, read every disparaging letter to the editor and re-evaluated every decision questioned to find the justification in the concerns. Legitimate concerns and fact-based issues have been duly noted, acknowledged and addressed.
But in the seemingly endless and very noisy rhetoric, there remain many groundless accusations, rumors, misunderstandings and even complete lies and just as many deaf ears to our attempts to offer accurate information. So, ultimately, I have chosen not to allow the blustering that is outside of my control to distract me from doing my job - doing what my experience, training and heart tell me are right for this community. I reflect on my career to date with pride in several significant accomplishments – including projects to improve our highways, sewage lift stations, airport, park and zoo and emergency services. I have the personal satisfaction of knowing I have approached my role professionally, ethically and in the best interest of the common good.
Certainly, every citizen has a right to express his or her viewpoint. But an even greater privilege, in my opinion, is enjoyed particularly by those of us who live in small communities like Independence. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s more than a right or a privilege…it is a responsibility. It is a duty to our fellow citizens and to our very quality of life to embrace a spirit of “community” and work together to maintain all that is good; to find solutions for what needs to be improved; and to appreciate and promote the positives.
It’s a balance that certainly isn’t easy to achieve in challenging times, whether those challenges are driven by economics, politics, social discord or some combination thereof. In fact, in 30 years of city management, I’ve noticed that when the news headlines portray gloom and doom – i.e., there is a natural disaster, the economy takes a hit or taxes are raised - there is a tendency to gravitate toward negativity and harsh judgment. It seems it is sometimes easier to wallow in self-pity and bitterness than it is to roll up our sleeves and unite to find positive solutions.
But judging from what I’ve witnessed since my wife, Donna, and I chose this community six years ago, the overwhelming majority of people here don’t believe in wallowing. The doers of this community are by no means oblivious to its challenges, but they have deep appreciation for its positive attributes. They understand that we can only accomplish a better quality of life, only offer an inviting destination for new residents and businesses, only reverse the gloom-and-doom morale if we work together, on the same page, moving in the same direction.
This is the community mindset that I want to be a part of, and it’s what I recognized as good about Independence upon my very first visit here. The only personal agenda I have in my role as city manager is to do my part to ensure the fine community I personally chose to be my home remains that way.
I know it’s a tall order, but now that the long-promised citizens’ petition has been presented, I hope it can be checked off the list, and we can redirect our efforts toward a positive future – working in community, for the community. Micky Webb, City Manager