Having run for City Council in 2008, I am more than familiar with the rigors of running a campaign, raising money, learning the issues, and encountering some of the worst and best leaders in our community.
As a candidate, you are invited to many forums throughout the city, but are not really welcome at all, as so many of the people who invite you have already decided that the incumbent is their best and favorite choice.
You can tell from the moment you step into an arena whether you will have a fair shot or be shot.
Some places only have name tags for the Council members, not for you, that big smile goes to the old boys but not the new ones, and the hard questions from the audience are often planted there to ask you because you are new and most likely do not have the inside information that the incumbents have.
You stand alone in the arena holding your head high, giving people an opportunity to make a new choice based on your training, experience, perspectives, and input you gather from what you see happening in the city.
There are too many forums. Do you really have to wonder why more people choose not to run or do not want to attend endless forums, many on back-to-back nights and mornings with little time to change your clothes, sleep three hours, and prepare for the next and go to work.
That said it is also a valuable part of the process. Citizens need opportunities to see you in action, how you field questions, your ability to stand tall in the face of horrible opposition and often very nasty citizens and current sitting candidates. You the candidate learn a lot about the different problems and concerns residents have in their particular part of Newport Beach simply by listening to the questions and concerns they have at the various forums.
As a potential leader in a very diverse and prominent city, it is important to know how the candidate will dress for public events, respond to questions, and also whether or not they are open to listening and learning more.
Will they come unhinged or be rude to the either the audience or a fellow candidate. These are all clues to a person’s qualifications for being a leader in the city. Too much is often put on the depth of the candidate’s knowledge level of city issues. How could the candidate possibly know everything a person who has been in the job for four or more years knows?
Assessing the ability of a person to lead has to do with a whole set of characteristics that include problem solving, character, ethics, decision making, cooperation, collaboration, and facilitation skills, not just knowledge which is easy to acquire and also the lowest level of critical thinking, and learned through the election process.
What about the ability to analyze, synthesize, and apply knowledge to various situations, tasks and problems. This is a huge part of being a competent council member.
I am concerned that three people (Duffy, Peotter, and Muldoon) have decided they just will not show up for some forums.
How much do they care about being elected? If elected will they simply opt not to show up for council meetings that are rumored to have lots of citizens attending and refuse to respond to public input once seated at monthly meetings?
The dock tax, group home and measure Y issues have generated some of the toughest and most uncomfortable meetings I have ever watched or attended.
This is the job and you power through it, show up, listen, ask questions, and try your best to remain calm no matter what the public throws at you. The more you listen actively, ask questions, and discuss the issues, the more trust you gain with the citizens, better decision outcomes are generated, and democracy is seen as a way to guide and run the city.
I also have to wonder why council candidate Diane Dixon, who is running unopposed, thinks that is okay for her to simply show up, give the pledge of allegiance, and not share with us her thinking on the issues that people care about in their neighborhood and city wide.
She has stated several times that she is listening to everyone and has talked to hundreds of people in the city. So when will she get to the application and synthesis level of all this information and let us know who she is and what she will be a champion of on behalf of all of us citizens?
Lastly, I think the Council should stop evaluating and criticizing the candidates who are proposing different methods to approach the budget and the decisions that the council has made.
Many citizens want to know how the candidates think about the budget, how they see it in the future, and what their ideas would be had they been in the seat at the time that it was proposed and passed. Spending is a huge issue citywide.
That is My Take
Dr. Gloria J. Alkire