Public Leadership In Four Dimensions by Randall Stephens

During the early days after filing for the 2014 mayoral election, a number of organizations contacted me, along with others running for office.  To be sure, every special interest group in town has a point to make, and hoped to educate the next generation of civic leaders.  It was one of the best experiences of my adult life and the time was well invested.

In marketing there is an old adage that “perception is reality”.  At a presentation by Undoing Racism Austin I learned about history from the perspectives of long time East side residents, mostly of African American and Latino descent. 

Later in the campaign process, I attended forums in various quadrants of Austin with a greater demographic mix in some, and less in others.  We are all affected by a rising cost of living, and in varying ways.  We all suffer from poorly planned and underfunded improvements to our transportation system.  We all appreciate clean air and water.  We all feel underrepresented at City Hall.  “We” being the taxpaying citizens of Austin.

There is another Class of person always seeking and often receiving representation at City Hall, the lobbyist.  Consultants run PACs, pay lobbyists, and invest in political campaigns of people needing the job.  Not everyone seeking a job in politics needs it, but many a gilded lilly has been promoted and elected, and sometimes influenced or duped into supporting expensive projects with little if any payback for the taxpayers.  

  • Example A:  Austin taxpayers are paying for a $Billion+ biomass energy plant in East Texas that is seldom used.  Members of the City Council running for office voted for it.
  • Example B:   In 2014 we are being sold an Urban Rail system under a complete farce perpetrated by Project Connect, whose current President is also a VP of HNTB, the sole contractor for the Austin Urban Rail Project.  Highway funds under the bond are for rail infrastructure, not highways improvements for traffic flow or commuters.

Public Service is a calling for some, and a profession for those elected.  In business and life, we learn to take a three dimensional look at every major decision or purchase.  We have to look for every possible consequence of our decision to invest time and money.  

In Public Leadership, we have to take a closer look.  We have to represent every minority group, every neighborhood, and every constituent in the community.  

  • Example A:  How will an event impact the neighborhoods around it?  How will annual events impact the long term quality of life for the citizens living around the venue?  How will the benefits of the event impact the total community?  And where might we locate the event in the future, if there are negative effects to long term quality of life for residents living near the event today?   
  • Example B:  How might an Urban Farm be regulated?  How might events hosted by a business like an Urban Farm to supplement income affect the residents nearby?  And if the quality of life has been degraded, was the business in compliance with zoning?
  • Example C:  During a forum in Tarrytown, some candidates for District 10 spoke up stating they want the City of Austin to buy Lions Municipal Golf Course.  A couple of candidates stated;  “MUNY was the first place African Americans were allowed to play golf in Texas’; and, Austin (taxpayers) could ‘create a historic district to (promote the idea of) support buying MUNY”.

With the 4th Dimension in mind;  – perceptions and value for all citizens;

  • If the residents near Lions Municipal Golf Course desire the City of Austin to pay The University of Texas (no doubt top-dollar) acquire and operate the Lions Municipal Golf Course we have to keep everyone in mind.  If Tarrytown residents want to invoke African American Heritage to get this done, – the next City Council ought to establish an offer and set up a Charitable Trust funding the long term acquisition, maintenance, and operations as well as scholarships, AISD Jr. and Sr. High School Golf Curriculum for East and SE Austin schools,  clubs and mentoring programs, and perhaps some Junior Achievement programs to help latchkey kids understand how to make it to Tarrytown as property owners in adult life.  Only then should the measure to purchase an operate Lions Municipal Golf Course be offered for a vote of the public.
  • If Zilker and East Austin residents are to be properly represented, all aspects of event promotions and venues need to be considered from a quality of life and public safety perspective.  I know if Cedar Park started holding music venues in the park behind my NE Austin house, or if the Avery Ranch Golf Club kept noise levels up late at night, we would have some long debates at City Halls of either city, possibly resulting in tortish activities.  And I am very, very risk averse regarding legal activities.  If we can’t avoid the courthouse, we don’t need to be in public service.  

Thankfully, my wife and I have very friendly neighbors.
The best example of Public Leadership is to provide measured, balanced, taxpayer-friendly leadership for all citizens.  That is my goal, should I become an elected public servant.

Randall Stephens

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Copyright © 2014 Randall Forrest Stephens

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AustinBlueDogBlog (herein referred to as; the Source) is a personal blog by Randall Forrest Stephens of Austin, Texas (herein referred to as the “Author”); and, not affiliated with any political organization.  Articles herein are the opinion of the Author, and intended for public use. Reprinting and online republishing is authorized by the Author provided the Source (AustinBlueDogBlog) is linked and/or cited.  Thank you for sharing my work!

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