Friday, July 13, 2012

Urban Government and Closed Systems

Two very interesting articles regarding leadership, government, and cities crossed my desk in the last few days. One was a blog and the other a short video. In Rich Galen’s blog (GO HERE), he talks about closed systems within organizations and how they will eventually lead to trouble. 

Within these systems, Rich says:
The danger of the Closed Circle Syndrome is that the same ideas get recycled being presented with different heading, in a different font, but containing nothing new.

Such is the case in many cities as one administration rolls into the next, often with many in the same positions that are/were threatened. So now back in place, under a new banner, the battles are refought with the same result, ineffective leadership. Even to the point of being defensive and secretive. Such is the plight of many of our cities today.

The quality of the leadership is so poor that one wonders how some cities will survive. In the city of Oakland, California the current administration seems to be absent as demonstrations, murders and shootings increase daily. In San Francisco the mayor is embroiled in a never ending legal tiff over the intent of the newly elected sheriff’s grab of his wife’s arm. Hundreds of thousands of dollars (taxpayer’s dollars) are being spent to save face. All while Rome burns.

I took issue with Richard Florida, the urbanist and cultural theorist, a few weeks ago over his Creative Class and its real or imagined impact on urban areas initiated by some comments by a reviewer. I still leave that for discussion. But I came across this video that adds to this conversation about mayors and their impact.

His most salient point, “Bad mayors do a lot more harm, to cities, than good mayors.” But how bad is bad, and how good is good? Is saving a sports franchise by building an expensive stadium a good idea or a bad idea? Ask Stockton, California (recently declared bankruptcy) why they spent millions building an event center that wasn’t needed and everyone knew it wasn’t needed. Or losing millions due to massive property value declines as a result of fear and flight. Or just plain dithering, as what seems to be the case in Oakland.

During these difficult times great urban leadership and management seems to be in short supply.

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