Road to Teamwork Is Not Necessarily Paved With Footprints.
The March 13th city council meeting was an invigorating bath in the political humors of
those who lead and those who are led.
$13.8 million is the latest cost for an aquatics center. The proposed beautiful bathing
behemoth will have it all; zero depth lines for the tadpoles, slides, a lazy float river, a four season
roof, lap lanes to keep wannabee Mark Spitzes fit and more. Councilman Kardos rightly began to
plumb the depths of this aquatic treasure chest and inquired if we could still get the steak without
the sizzle by building a pool for a lower price tag.
We have three high schools pools, one at Solano College and two at a membership club.
None are an aquatic center costing $13.8 million. What is the real cost per bather and how does
this affect our lives? Can we build it incrementally? Should we? Aquatic centers have cache and
value and are a type of badge of city’s that have truly “arrived”. After Kardos’s well reasoned
questions what impressed me were the sounds of silence. We need to hear a wave of rationale or
cost benefit analysis wash its way onto the council dais shores before we decide. Let’s not go
smacking this Kraken to a watery grave until we discern beauty or beast publically, in the media
and at more council meetings.
As the evening progressed, I saw that which leaders and those led should always fear. It
was the haunting ghost of William Golding, author of “Lord of the Flies”, a novel set with
Europe at the brink of nuclear destruction. A group of choir boys survive a tropical island crash
landing and soon descend into chaos, disorder, and self serving self destruction.
We have a financial situation in Fairfield that could rapidly worsen. That evening, more
concerning was the hint of smoke from the kind of primal fires that neither warm hearts nor
hearths. It was wafting amidst the parade of folks, threatened with job loss and claiming
disillusionment with their chain of command, who were leaning hard and heavy on council.
Emotionally powerful imagery of a city as family repeatedly rang out. Let’s remember
that in families and cities alike, responsibilities run in all directions and are not equally
distributed. Neither cities nor families are true democracies and although every mother of every
family has the most beautiful baby in the world, cities are neither parents nor nannies.
For example, a sincerely moving appeal from a valuable and effective niche community
service program lead one councilman to leave the dais to console a plaintiff post cathartic appeal.
That program represents outreach to less than 0.1% of that in need and there are other thriving
concerns which are similar but not identical at far less cost to the taxpayer that reach far more
than 100 times as many. Could strategic alliances and creative synergies be struck?
Similarly, the city looked long and hard at the funding of the arts with a comprehensive
plan that is revenue positive, exceeds core needs and portends enormous potential if competing
interests and fears can be overcome. Contention reminds us that the road to teamwork is paved
with good intentions but not necessarily footprints.
Intelligent strategic resourcing, with maximal retention of jobs consistent with good
business rationale and compassionate governance will win the day. That is a thankless and
excruciatingly difficult process.
Tales of bad leadership or management, as well as warnings of impending disaster
resulting from unmet needs or wants, are tails that can wag much larger dogs. It is up to the big
dogs of council to thoroughly vet those competing claims
So when the call comes from problem solvers to get in the water, aquatic center or
otherwise, fire and police union negotiations, community service and public works layoffs or arts
consortia building, please try not to pee in the pool.
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