Arroyo Grande City Council behaving badly
September 23, 2014
OPINION By LEANN AKINS
I am writing this letter to share my thoughts on the current situation facing Arroyo Grande residents and the city leaders. I have not lived in Arroyo Grande for long (close to two years), but the recent unethical behavior of the mayor, the city manager, and other members of the council have left an imprint.
As a high school teacher in the State of California for the last 20 years I was in a position to influence on a daily and minute-by- minute basis the minds and hearts of the students who came into my classroom. I spent a significant amount of time with them teaching content, but also helped with navigating life. Our young people need strong and ethical leaders. Our society needs strong and ethical leaders. Have you provided this kind of leadership in the last few months?
One of the most important things I learned while I was teaching is this: Children watch the behavior of adults. Children learn from the behavior of adults. Our children in the community will learn from your actions. Are you prepared to face that? Are you prepared to defend your actions to the most impressionable people in our community?
The only rule I truly had while I was growing up was, “Do not do anything that would bring a bad name to this house.” Simple enough. All I had to do before doing anything was ask that question. If the answer waivered from the ‘right answer’, then I didn’t proceed with that action, recognizing there would be consequences to my actions. The consequences would be good or bad, but they would be mine to deal with either way. I can tell you that the adults in my life practiced this rule, and showed me how to apply it to my life. Are you applying this rule to your life? And more importantly, are you accepting responsibility for your actions based on the actions you have chosen to take? What even you must realize is that you are not able to do anything you choose and not be held accountable.
On the larger landscape, our culture today allows people to blur the lines between what is acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. Because acceptable behavior is up for interpretation, so is the truth. The problem with truth is, it is based on fact, not interpretation. Sure, everyone may have their opinion about what the truth means for any given person or situation, but you cannot dispute facts. The truth cannot be clouded or changed to fit someone’s desires or needs. The truth is not selfish.
Ultimately the truth is not bendable or breakable. It is just truth. You have attempted to blur the lines of acceptable behavior and have also attempted to cloud the truth, if not bend it outright. You have bought into the larger cultural ideas that this behavior is acceptable and will be tolerated by the community. I will point out that the citizens of Arroyo Grande will not accept nor tolerate your behavior.
So what does this mean for the given situation? It means that the city leaders who have twisted the truth, who have excused bad behavior, and who have attempted to manipulate public opinion by pointing the finger towards the police department and other individuals (for doing their job) have failed at their role in being leaders. You have failed to fulfill your ethical duty to the people who either elected or hired you. It means you have also failed in providing a community government where the leadership has the best interests of the community at heart. It means that there is a lack of trust between the people and the current political leadership.
Let’s be clear, this situation isn’t so much about whether an extramarital affair happened or didn’t happen, that is a personal matter which needs to be dealt with personally. This is a matter of city leadership not doing the right thing in the face of a difficult situation. If you, as a leader, cannot be honest with the people who elected or hired you regarding a clandestine moment, how can you expect the people of Arroyo Grande to trust you with the bigger things, like, running the city?
Remember the definition of a leader. The definition of a leader is “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” You are the chief, the head. But a leader is more than a title you tote around on your business card; you have a role to play in society once you are given that title. Your role is to do just that—lead. You might be a specific kind of leader, an innovator, trailblazer, groundbreaker, pathfinder, etc. You might be effective, or ineffective. You may also be ethical, or unethical. You may be laissez-faire, or see yourself as a servant. Whatever word used to describe a leader, that description, is built on the actions of that leader. I can assure you the recent actions taken by you have defined you as leaders. You are not viewed as effective, or servants, or innovators (hallmarks of all great leaders). You are seen as people who will do anything to hold their positon.
You are seen as unethical, dishonest, ineffective, and untrustworthy.
It is time for the leaders of the city, or at least the people who view themselves as the leaders of the city, to ask themselves, if they are truly the leaders of the city. Are they the people who will help do what successful leaders do in an organization? It may take some soul searching; it may take you down some dark places, but you ultimately need to ask and answer this question and make the decision that is best for the community, not for yourselves. You may even need to ask yourself, the toughest question of all, “What would Jesus do?” I think we can all agree on one thing about Jesus (hopefully more), that he was a transformational and radical leader who put people first—not himself.
Just know this. I will be watching. I will be attending council meetings. I will be asking tough questions. Others will too. I am educated, informed, and willing to define myself as a political watchdog. There is so much to love and value in the city of Arroyo Grande. There is too much at stake, and with poor leadership, even more is at stake. There is also work to be done; work that requires people who are willing to do that work. Only people serious about doing that work should be leading that work. Are you serious about the work? And more importantly, can you deliver on getting it done in an ethical manner?
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