Debate used to be something that was valued in America. Lincoln vs. Douglas was a pivotal point in American history that captured the country’s attention. JFK was more telegenic than Nixon and from then on, it became less and less about the power of ideas, but a pandering to the majority. Debate focuses ideas, especially between leaders, it clarifies their positions.
In Dayton, we fear confrontation more than failure. Asking questions is more likely to get you branded as a gadfly or radical extremist. To be heard, one must be part of a herd (as former assistant city manager Paul Woodie once told me). So, as I sit contemplating the “Young Creative Summit” being held – I wonder, what kind of debates will start tomorrow at this group hug?
The description reads:
On April 18th young creatives will have a louder voice in our region. The Young Creatives Summit will offer young creative people like you a chance to make a difference in the future of our city – and the power to help transform Dayton into a better place to live, work and play.
The summit will feature a town hall type forum for you and your peers to air both your needs and concerns for the region. Dayton’s many stakeholders will be there – businesses, non-profits, universities and elected officials – so they can hear what you have to say. The summit will culminate in an action plan for the future of Dayton.
I wonder, are the “young creatives” not stakeholders too? Will telling the stakeholders that they’ve failed make a difference at all? If the YC says- we need less fiefdoms and a more powerful king- will all the feudal serfs give up their modicums of power for the greater good? This debate over Regionalism and UniGov has been going on since the sixties- what’s going to change the power structure now?
The ideas have been put forward before- and little has changed. CityVision 20/20 was a process I took part in back in 1999 or so. I still have the report- gathering dust on my shelf just as it did for those in power.
The same thinking is going on at MVRPC:
“If we get 1,000 people to come to workshops, nothing will change,” (Martin) Kim (of MVRPC) said. “But if we can capture people’s interest and get something like a majority into the process, we can dramatically change the future.”
Even if the ideas are grand, where will the money come from to implement them? With tax collections and property values decreasing, there is already a shortage of funds for existing services and infrastructure.
Asking for answers is great- however the test requires implementation- preferably, before the Young Creatives are no longer young.
Before the powers that be even begin to ask for change, the real question is who among them is going to take charge to implement the ideas that are generated at the session, and if they fail to do so- will accept not only the responsibility but consequences for their inaction.
Once we know that there is someone willing to lead, then maybe we can actually do something- other than form another committee.
One of my favorite quotes from Ross Perot is appropriate here:
[Contrasting the corporate cultures of his former company, EDS, and General Motors, which had acquired EDS:]
“The first EDSer to see a snake kills it. At GM, first thing you do is organize a committee on snakes. Then you bring in a consultant who knows a lot about snakes. Third thing you do is talk about it for a year.”
Quoted in Business Week, 6 Oct. 1986.
I’m tired of talking about things in Dayton. It’s time to do them- and just skip the summits.