The Heights Observer was nice enough to print my letter in the September 2019 issue.
Here’s the text:
First off, I want to say there are bright and conscientious people making some good arguments for why the city-manager system is right for our city.
Second, I’m not a political science expert, but I’ve researched this topic, and it is clear that successful and unsuccessful cities exist with a variety of structures.
Third, I want to say that the people arguing for preserving the system are utterly missing the bigger picture.
If people were largely content, there is no way a handful of part-time volunteers would have been able to get this far.
Ask your activist friends just how much work it is to gather 4,000 signatures. Consider how many years you have lived in the Heights, and consider all the petitions you’ve been asked to sign in the past. How many of those went anywhere? The vast majority of the time, these projects never go anywhere.
But this Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM) issue tapped into a deeper sense of pessimism and dissatisfaction with our city leadership. If people were generally content, the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would make this effort impossible.
The popularity of CEM’s issue shows many believe that “it is broke,” so they’re eager for change.
My suggestion to the folks who want to keep things as-is: quit saying it could always be worse. That’s like Candide claiming that this is the best of all possible worlds*. Instead, acknowledge the grumbling! Acknowledge that the status quo is not satisfying enough people, and then describe a new inspiring plan. Offer something new to inspire hope.
* Normally I wouldn’t use a pretentious literary reference, but since this is the Heights, I figure y’all would get it. That’s why I love it here.