Richmond's next Mayor

Pemaquid Point LighthouseWe're still some time away from the next Mayoral election here in Richmond, Indiana, but whoever is going to run and win to keep or take office in 2016 will have to begin their initial preparations this year.

(A number of people have kindly suggested that I would be a good candidate for the job. I appreciate this and I'm honored by it. But to be clear: I'm not running for Mayor in the upcoming election.)

Before the candidates announce themselves and the conversation becomes about those individuals and their qualifications, I want to share my own hopes for what Richmond will see in its next Mayor.

The legal requirements for running are pretty basic: "A candidate for the office of mayor...must have resided in the city for at least one year before the election." Hopefully we'll set the bar a little higher than that.

The below list is not meant to be a critique of our current Mayor or of any past person who has held the title, but rather a forward-looking inventory of what I think the city needs most right now:

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Sunshine Week: disclosure's benefits justify potential sting

Del Mar RestaurantAs a pat of my role on the Palladium-Item editorial board, I have a viewpoints piece in today's paper about Sunshine Week 2012, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

If you've followed this blog you know that I am a consistent advocate for transparency in government leadership, and the topic was raised a number of times during last year's election season.  I appreciate the paper bringing focus to this issue, and look forward to the conversations that result.

Here's the full text of my editorial submitted for today's edition:

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A City is a Startup

biodiversity jengaOver the weekend Jon Bischke made the interesting comparison of a start-up company to city government in A City Is A Startup: The Rise Of The Mayor-Entrepreneur.  Bischke notes that the factors that go into a successful entrepreneurial effort are similar to the ones that make for a successful city:

  1. Build stuff people want, offer products and services people want to buy
  2. Attract and retain quality talent
  3. Raise capital to get fledgling ideas to the point of sustainability, create a density of "investors"
  4. Create a world class culture that encourages people to stick around even when times get tough

These may not be comprehensive factors, but they could be useful metrics to view your city with.

If I had to rate my own city of Richmond, Indiana, I'd say we have plenty of room to grow in each area:

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Why THIS city election matters

All elections matter in one way or another.  Every elected official, no matter how unglamorous their office might seem or how routine their work is, has an impact on the lives of citizens in their communities.  The City of Richmond has had many elections before and will have many to come, and they will all matter in some way.

But we can't let the shared pastime of grumbling about the machinations of politics and the wearing complexity of government trick us into forgetting that, right now, for the future of our city, this is the election that matters.

Why?

As I campaigned during the primary season and met with concerned voters, business owners and community leaders, and as I've observed the economic, social and cultural forces at work in our area, I've come to see that the next four years are going to be a critical time in the history of Richmond, Indiana:

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How to decide whether to join a volunteer board

Dinner Party DessertIt's an honor and a privilege to have volunteer opportunities to use our time and talents for the betterment of our communities. One common opportunity is to serve as a board member at an organization you care about and whose mission you support.

I've written before about things you might consider when leaving a volunteer board of directors for a non-profit or other community organization. I've also had some good conversations recently about the process on the other side of that kind of community involvement, deciding whether or not to say "yes" to joining a board of directors or taking on some other leadership role. For your sake and for that of the organization, it's important to do some research and reflecting before accepting that invitation, to make sure your involvement is a good fit and that the experience will be rewarding for all involved.

From my experience, here's a list of steps to take and questions to ask when you're considering whether or not to join a board of directors:

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The power of the agenda setter

In every organizational conversation, there's some process for setting the agenda of what the conversation will be about, and how it will be conducted.  Usually there's a subset of the organization's members who set that agenda - sometimes just a single person - shaping the issues and decisions that the organization takes on.

In a non-profit organization board meeting, it might be the Executive Committee or the board chair.

In a small business, it might be the business's owners or managers.

In a city council meeting, it might be the President of the council or the group's political majority.

In a community of faith, it might be church elders.

Sometimes we forget the power that the agenda setters can have.  We focus on the outcomes of the conversations that we do have, but we forget or overlook that some conversations aren't conducted in the first place.

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EDC Board Appointments: Ready for Battle!

If you read today's Palladium-Item article detailing the recent attempts by Richmond's City Council to gain more representation on the Economic Development Corporation's board of directors, you might be a little confused. I certainly was.

On one hand, you've got the City painting a picture of being left out of the key parts of the relationship the EDC has with its Richmond constituents, having to fork over $730,000 without appropriate representation.

You've got a County official noting that the City is as well represented on the EDC board as the County or other entities, and that things are working just fine as they are, while the Chamber president notes that there may be a conversation to be had, but that the current actions being taken are too poorly timed.

What's going on here?  Everyone seems to be making reasonable statements on the matter that represents the point of view of the entities they serve, but it sounds like they're having the conversation with each other for the first time on the pages of the newspaper. ARGH!

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Too many community builders in one town?

GazeboOne of the recurring themes in my writing in speaking about how to make our communities more self-reliant is that we can't necessarily depend on entities and organizations that aren't locally rooted to address the issues that are of local concern. The natural corollary to this is that, in addition to individual citizens taking action, we should be able to look to locally rooted organizations to be moving the community forward, helping us make it the place we want it to be.

But one only has to look at the long list of community building organizations and entities in Richmond - and the overlap, duplication, and even competition that some of them represent for each other - to wonder if maybe this isn't an area where we're actually holding ourselves back instead of moving ourselves forward.

Consider, in no particular order: Continue reading "Too many community builders in one town?"