Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Unified or Fractured? Neither?

Constitutions, charters, statutes, and ordinance provide the source of authority for elected officials and staff in the policy-making and day to day process of managing the town.  A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities increases our effectiveness.  Whether legislative or executive, our goal is to serve the community.  

Our Town processes are most efficient and productive when we work well together.  Each of us has a role to play and has defined responsibilities.  Conflicts arise when the needs and responsibilities of one are not understood or respected by another.  

Our staff can be a tremendous help in developing ideas, structuring processes, and keeping us on the straight and narrow. I have served just under one year; there are many situations and instances that will arise that I have little or no experience with.  Myself and my colleagues on the Council must rely on staff to provide us with a myriad of information so that we can fully perform our duties. Neither of us is free from imperfections.   

When there is a concern, be it staff or council, the matter should be discussed privately. I did that. However, my colleague chose not to.  Public criticism only makes martyrs. 

I am disappointed that my moment of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and frustration on my part was made public last night by Council Member McCollum.  There have been numerous private emails from my colleagues that I consider disrespectful and undermine our sitting Mayor. However, I have not chosen, nor has the Mayor, to provide provocation and attempt to undermine this council by taking it to the public.  

The actions last night have made me ponder who exactly is providing the fuel for this narrative that we are a fractured entity.  

Definition of Fracture:(with reference to an organization or other abstract thing) split or fragment so as to no longer function or exist.

We continue as a council to function.  We continue to move things forward. I even tend to agree with this council member most of the time. I agreed with him and he with me several times last night. Therefore, I don't agree that we are fractured.  

But let me provide some history.  Last year, some members of our town council attempted to deny Mayor Fraser his authority to appoint a member to a local governing committee. That and the efforts since, to undermine and discredit him have sadly left me more suspect than I would like to be.  

When I listened to the council meeting (May 12, 2015) a day later, it perplexed me as to how Council Member McCollum was appointed by the VML when they do not make the appointment as he stated in his comments. Research showed that countless other municipalities included it as an agenda item.   I sent an inquiry solely to the Mayor and the Town Manager in an attempt to temper my angst and keep it private. The Town Manager promptly provided the background and through a series of emails we came to an amicable consensus on how to proceed under the same circumstances in the future. The issue was resolved quickly between me, the Town Manager, and the Mayor. After my email was circulated to the entire council,  I expressed to everyone that my initial email(click to read) was poor messaging and terse, and I apologized in a subsequent email (click to read)  to all who saw it.  The Town Manager also apologized to me as well. 

Comments about my emails were edited and spoken out of context last night, and that is why I chose to publish them.   At no point was my communication an attack personally on Council Member McCollum and I made that clear in my council comments at the dais.  It was not the intent of my message, and several others did not interpret it as a personal attack on Council Member McCollum either.  Council Member McCollum never attempted to have a private conversation with me about my intentions even though there were public comments made last night by other council members that we should pursue that course in these situations.   

I was concerned about the process and making sure that each and every member of this council is provided the same access. We have four new members of council, and there are many nuances and procedures that we will not know of until a situation surfaces.  Staff and our veteran council members should provide leadership. They won't always catch everything or be at the ready, but we look to them on guidance.   

Regardless, we have been fighting for the heart and soul of Purcellville. We have been working on our budget, moving forward on initiatives such as the survey, economic development, and assessing our assets to better align our future.  We are having to attend annexation meetings that require the attention of town council and its residents.   

This is the second time this narrative of being a "fractured" council has been brought up at our meetings and it is truly a non-issue. Inserting this into our council meetings is nothing more than an attempt to divert the public and media attention from the issues that truly matter to the residents.

Our spoken words and actions have power, and they can and will define us.  Once out, we can no longer hide from them or the truth of who we are.  Disagreeing is the hallmark of democracy. However, respect must come from both sides.  

"Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things."- Warren Bennis