In the wake of the Friday agenda study and the mayoral debate at my Lakeland Kiwanis Club, I’ve figured out specifically what I’m going to ask city commissioners on Monday morning.
I’m looking for clarity, not debate. I’m not going to argue with them. I think this is, by far, the most serious leadership crisis that Lakeland has faced since I’ve lived here. It’s the culmination of many things. And I believe the citizens deserve to know in specific detail and on camera how each city commissioner rates the performance of its only two employees — city attorney and city manager — and how each sees their future.
Will I get them to do that? Who knows? But now that Howard Wiggs has made the mayoral election a referendum on at least the city manager and chief, it’s a question they’ll need to answer at some point. The people are going to speak, one way or the other. And that’s as it should be. Twitter tells me that some commissioners, like Keith Merritt, seem to lament the idea that we might make hugely important decisions through an “election-cycle prism.” What better prism can there be? The people you represent are going to tell you what they want you to do. They’re going to give you electoral guidance on an issue where you have been paralyzed. I think we call that representative democracy. Trust me, it’s a better prism than LPAC.
Anyway, here is my little statement and three basic questions. I’ll probably just read it.
Here’s the way I see the evidence:
This is a wider city government culture problem — not just an LPD problem. Almost everyone implicated in the recent city government problems was considered a leader or directly and recently promoted by senior city leadership. They all thrived in the leadership culture created over many years by the city manager, city attorney, and more recently, by the chief.
So I see no evidence of any effort or direction from city leadership to address culture before Jerry Hill forced the city’s hand. The City Manager did nothing to stop the pointless public fighting with Hill and The Ledger before the big scandal broke. These are stakeholders you would need on your side to fix a broken culture. City leadership publicly antagonized them instead.
I see no evidence that the city attorney conceived or executed any legal strategy for addressing problems with the LPD or city culture. In fact, I’m pretty certain he spent much more time working on a pension plan change that would have personally benefited him and the city manager. And I’ve personally witnessed him talk to commissioners with condescension and disrespect.
As I said, the mayor is using the metaphor of a home renovation to describe what’s happened here. But if this city government really were a home renovation, you would have long ago called code enforcement on it for lack of progress – and started fining people. That’s what Jerry Hill has been doing for you. Many people see the evidence the same way.
So here are my questions:
1) Why are we wrong to see the evidence this way?
2) Do you plan to take any vote at all on the future of city leadership when LPAC releases its report? If not, do you envision the current city manager and city attorney still in place this time next year? In 5 years?
3) The mayoral election is now a referendum on leadership change. One side wants leadership change; one side wants the status quo. So the people will give ourselves clarity about what we want. Will you honor the choice the people make?
Finally, stop the whining about this being “personal.” Of course it’s personal. The professional is always personal. It was personal for the people working under the abusive HR leaders. It was personal for the woman who couldn’t LPD to take Julio Pagan’s actions seriously. I’m pretty sure the commissioners and city manager and city attorney take it personally when I say they need to go. I can’t blame them. My assessment of their professional record would have personal consequences. That’s life. It’s personal. Everything is personal.
What does “it’s a well-known fact that Jerry Hill doesn’t like me” even mean? This isn’t high school. You’re not running for prom king or queen. Lakeland leaders, too many of your officers and your employees — the people you are paid to lead — have behaved abysmally in ways that inflicted personal harm through professional power. You should have spent more time confronting that fact than complaining that Jerry Hill — of whom I’m not really a big fan — thinks you have the cooties. Grow up.