In my last article, I told you that I’d tell you what I would do. I’m not a politician or an urban planner. That said, the following comments are things other successful communities and individuals are doing currently. My hope is these thoughts will help you as voters in our upcoming elections. Also, I hope some of our elected officials may take some of this article to heart.
The mayor must be a visionary and a leader for our community. The holder of this office operates much like a chief executive officer (CEO) of a large, publicly traded company. While the CEO runs the company, he or she answers to the stockholders. Likewise, our mayor must realize first and foremost that he works for and answers to our community’s citizens.
Going one step further, the CEO communicates to stockholders through many avenues. The company has a website to communicate both immediate and long-term strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Also, every company has a mission statement. Exxon Mobil’s mission statement is: "Exxon Mobil Corporation is committed to being the world's premier petroleum and petrochemical company. To that end, we must continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of business conduct. These unwavering expectations provide the foundation for our commitments to those with whom we interact." Read that statement, and you know what Exxon Mobil is and where it’s going.
Does our city have a mission statement to say where it’s going? Most major cities have mission statements for each of their divisions. The city of San Antonio’s department of Community Initiatives mission statement is "To serve as a catalyst for coordinating resources and partnerships that promote economic self-sufficiency, family strengthening, and enhance the quality of life for children, families and seniors and ensure greater public accountability for the investment of resources. " Smaller cities post their "Comprehensive Master Plan" on their website, much like the town of Seguin.
Where is our website? What are our goals? While our town has drafted a comprehensive master plan, our mayor has told me they follow the City of Blanco TCDP Planning and Capacity Study. I’ve read both documents. They seem to dovetail–the TCDP focuses more on infrastructure, and the Comprehensive Master Plan deals with goals that citizens want to accomplish.
The town council should act like the board of directors of a publicly-traded company. I remember Tesoro, a large oil company in San Antonio who hired former President Gerald Ford as a director. Company officials had many people in house to advise them regarding about the oil business but no one for dealing with other governments. President Ford provided that. In addition, he could make introductions and connections that Tesoro couldn’t. Where are our city’s advisors? When confronted about the sign ordinance, our city attorney said he didn’t want to get involved. What kind of advice is this?
Both the mayor and the city council need to be using and enforcing the adopted local codes and laws. The city cannot be run by what an individual, or individuals feel, disregarding these codes and laws. Should there be an agreement that a local code or law needs to be changed, change it! Change should occur only with the backing of the town’s citizens, as well.
The first thing I would do if I were in city government is surround myself with a group of trusted, knowledgeable advisors. Personally, I feel that the mayor and each councilmember can’t make the varied decisions needed in city government without a group of personal advisors. The presidents of our country all have had advisors in their cabinet. The CEOs of large companies have a board of directors to help with their decisions. This is where the current city government would meet with past city mayors, council members, current business owners, school district representatives, and the like to ask their views on Blanco’s current situation and future prospects.
The next goal would be to see where the citizens of our community want to go. This is what the Comprehensive Master Plan is all about. To implement the Master Plan, it would need to be integrated with the TCDP Planning and Capacity Study and adopted by the city as our goal for today into the future. Why reinvent the wheel? Determine what of the many projects are needed, and which is to be first, second, third, and so on. Then hand off the various projects to different members of the city council and their advisors to determine what each project entails.
This information and all other city information would be communicated to citizens in a city website, during old business at the monthly city council meetings, and annual or semiannual town hall meetings. Whether it regarded the mayor or a councilperson, there would be many ways of communicating with your representatives. First, each person (mayor or council representatives) would have POSTED office hours. There would also be e-mail and regular mail to communicate with our elected officials. To have a government that is transparent, two-way communications is vital.
The next project would be to search for a qualified city manager. This professional would keep the city moving ahead efficiently and be a common thread between administrations. While the search is made, we should draft a template of where Blanco should be in five years and 25 years.
Finally, a push to entice new "favored" businesses to move to Blanco. We have made inroads to attract the healthcare business, tourism and eco-tourism (with the "Dark Sky Initiative"), light manufacturing to cater to the defense industries (military bases), and businesses that supply or house technology firms. Blanco cannot retain its small town flavor without having higher paying jobs to keep our brightest and imaginative people from moving away.
So in a nutshell I think we (Blanco) should:
1. Establish a mission statement
2. Append the City of Blanco TCDP Planning and Capacity Study, and Comprehensive Master Plan
3. Establish a group of city advisers
4. Develop long-term city goals
5. Develop a system of communication between citizens and the city
6. Search for a city manager
7. Develop new and encourage current local businesses