Another November, another election. So what, you shrug. Why the quadrennial blather about "leadership"? What does a Mayor do, anyway, besides pave streets, fix sewers, pick up trash and see to it that…
Another November, another election.
So what, you shrug. Why the quadrennial blather about "leadership"? What does a Mayor do, anyway, besides pave streets, fix sewers, pick up trash and see to it that other necessary services are performed, preferably at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer? What conceivable difference does it make who wins the Mayor’s office, or who serves on the City County Council?
If City government is only about delivery of services, it really doesn’t matter. There is not, after all, any specifically Republican or Democratic way to pick up garbage. In Indiana, where Democrats tend to be indistinguishable from Republicans on fiscal issues, there isn’t even any specifically Republican or Democratic way to keep taxes down. So why vote for TweedleDee rather than TweedleDum?
I think it does matter whom we elect. It matters because government is about so much more than garbage and streets and sewers, important as those things are. Government is about creating a civic identity, about forging a unified polity out of the innumerable differences that characterize our citizens. As Bill Hudnut used to say, it is about building the "city on the hill." It is about getting from "you and you and me" to "we."
I write about civil liberties. In a very real sense, however, civil liberties is really just another term for respect. A city that takes the Bill of Rights seriously respects the right and ability of citizens to make their own decisions, unless those decisions harm others.
A city that takes democratic traditions seriously respects the right of its residents to participate in the decisions that will shape their city’s future. It respects their right to be informed–in a full, truthful and timely manner– about decisions made by their elected officials.
A city committed to the rule of law respects the right of all of its citizens to equal treatment under that law.
Political leadership is the capacity to articulate that respectful and inclusive vision, and to inspire our energy and enthusiasm on behalf of its realization. It is the ability to remind us, as we tend to our particularistic tasks, that we also have civic obligations to our communities, and that fulfilling those obligations can be deeply satisfying. Leadership is all about process, about engaging each of us in the civic adventure.
Between now and November 2d, there will be plenty of people asking for our votes for Mayor and for seats on the City County Council. As a voter, I’m looking for the candidates who can tell me what they want my city to look like four or eight or twenty years from now. I’m looking for the candidates who seem to genuinely care about people who don’t look just like them. I’m looking for the candidates who seem more interested in doing something than in being someone.
I’m looking for respect.