Friday, May 27, 2016

What's your agenda Mr Short?

First, say that headline to yourself but do it with your best villainous cartoon character accent.

Now, picture yourself as me sitting in Davidson Town Hall and being asked that question a few weeks ago by town staff – minus the Mr Short part, of course.  We’re on a first name basis around here.

Once you’ve stopped laughing or shaking your head, here is the answer to that question.

Over the years, yours truly has been pretty rough on the Town of Davidson – both in my blog and in the columns the Herald Weekly so graciously lets me write.  If you were to go back and read through it all, you would see the recurring themes of improving transparency, exposing conflicts of interest, opposing bad ideas before they become costly mistakes, and generally holding local government accountable.

If anyone wants to call those things an “agenda”, then I am more than happy to have them do so.

Here are a few examples of that “agenda” in action.

In recent years, Davidson tried twice to resurrect the bad idea of implementing 4 year staggered terms – a system that makes it nearly impossible to vote out a majority of elected officials in a single election.  Both times, the idea never really got off the ground.  That topic was a big one in the early days of my blog, and playing a part in stopping that is something I’ll always be proud of helping make happen.

Over the years, there have also been several storylines involving conflicts of interest – many more than I cared to write.  It’s a topic I’d like to never cover again, but unfortunately that’s very likely not going to be the case.

Some of those columns were down in the weeds on the state law governing exactly what is a conflict.  Others covered specific examples – more than one involving the long time Davidson town attorney, Rick Kline.  Those columns in particular seemed to strike a nerve.  Kline announced his retirement a few months ago, and his replacement was announced at the May 10th Board meeting.  The town’s Affordable Housing  Coordinator, Cindy Reid, will be stepping into the Town Attorney role.  At the meeting, as Kline was complementing the town’s selection of Reid as his replacement, it was interesting to hear him add “unlike me, she doesn’t have any potential conflicts out there.”

Let’s certainly hope that turns out to be true.

Then you have the category of the “big idea”.

Big ideas are often accompanied by positive sounding adjectives such as “transformative”, or “progressive”, or even “necessary”.  However,  big ideas tend to also be costly, have long term impacts, and be rife with unintended consequences.  Aggressively poking holes in those big ideas are the bread and butter of the “agenda”.  When thinking of big ideas, think things like the Red Line, the I77 HOT Lanes, and the Catalyst Project.

Davidson more than most local towns has seen the negative impacts a big idea gone wrong through its adventures in the cable business with MI-Connection.  It’s not being melodramatic to say avoiding the next debacle of that magnitude is akin to a life or death situation for Davidson’s small town character. Plus, quite frankly if a big idea can’t withstand a little criticism, then it is probably also not a good idea.

It has not all been criticism however.  When they happen, it has been nice to call out positive things.

Implementing tools for greater transparency is one area where Davidson has done a good job.  The recent widespread use of streaming technology to broadcast all types of town meetings is one example where the town has made real strides.  The town has also regularly been responsive to my public information requests.

To be fair, when asked about my “agenda” for these columns it  wasn’t taken as an ominous question, and it certainly wasn’t delivered with a cartoon villain accent.  On the contrary, I took it as a compliment.  It means these columns have the town’s attention, and that most definitely is a good thing.

This column first appeared in this week's Herald Weekly at

1 comment:

  1. You fer us or agin us, Mr. Short?