"Talk Less; Smile More"
The musical Hamilton offers this advice from Aaron Burr to Alexander Hamilton.
The full lines are:
“While we’re talking; Let me offer you some free advice; Talk Less; Smile More; Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for”
This line and this advice has been running through my head frequently as I think about our current board, my criticisms, and how we move forward. At some point change will occur — that is just a fact of life. If the United4Lakewood Newcomers win the election, there will be change in the board — but not the whole board. There will be three sitting board members who have borne some of my (and the residents’) ire over the past months and even going into this election, I’m thinking about what will happen after April 6th.
My single biggest criticism of the Trustees is the refusal to discuss any thing in a public meeting. They don’t challenge or question the whims of our current President or Administration. While I see this as a failure to do their jobs, I do wonder if they do this under some of the misgiven advice that dates back much further than the American Revolution. This idea that to succeed in politics, or maybe life, it is better to look like wallpaper and fade away than to take a stand and risk being wrong.
We have been told they discuss things, just not in public. While I believe strongly this is at the very least a violation of the spirit of the Open Meetings Act, it also deprives the voting public from seeing who these people really are. We can’t judge if they make thoughtful decisions because we can’t watch their deliberations. We can’t know they are worthy of our vote, because they never speak out publicly and ask a single question.
Later in the same song, Aaron Burr states, “Fools who run their mouths off wind up dead.” While this is excellent foreshadowing in a musical, the dead doesn’t have to be literal, it could also mean fade into obscurity. Hamilton responds with the famous axiom of “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?” And I often wonder, what have our Trustees fallen for?
When we look at the three who will certainly still be on the board after April 6th, we have to consider how the board moves forward. Normally, this would be where I’d call out praise for things or stands that each of the remaining board members have done and explain that while I disagree with their current position; I respect them and look forward to working together to mend bridges and seek a positive path forward. But, due to their complete unwillingness to discuss anything in the public or ever be seen to possibly dissent from Phil’s agenda — I have nothing to work with.
While it may seem like it doesn't matter, if all of the United4Lakewood newcomers are elected, are we incented in anyway to work with the remaining Trustees. Would the four of us be much like the current board, effectively shutting out the lone voices of dissent in an effort to ram our agenda through? This is a valid question, but I know something that makes the United4Lakewood group unique -- we don't always agree.
Unlike the position of forced loyalty required of Phil’s crew, the United4Lakewood group talk and discuss and listen and respect each other. And we’d encourage that of those who remain on the board. I’d love to hear an actual opinion from Brian Augustine. I like to hear a deeper thought from Doug Ulrich than his breakfast preference. And if Ryan Berman could speak without condescending he might have a point worth listening to.
What’s even better is that the system of using Robert’s Rules allows us to have questions, conversations, and voice concerns or agreements without slowing down the process. Yes, we may have to consider that the meetings may go longer than 30 minutes; but we’d be able to be actually transparent to the residents about the workings of this village. If those conversations could be had with respect, then the board could compromise and come to agreements that actually move us toward building a real comprehensive, public plan to solve the biggest issues this village faces — the issues that can’t be solved within a single 4 year term of one elected official. Instead of re-writing the plan every four years, thus never seeing progress, we work together — board and residents — to build a long-term plan for solving things like the flooding in the Gates; the maintenance of the roads; dams; and lakes; and the long term financial health of the village.
When I think of what the board could look like after April 6th, I propose that we look to another political musical to give our future board advice — from 1776, Stephen Hopkins on bringing a discussion about Independence to the floor said, “Well, in all my years I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.”
Given that our founding fathers had no issue with discussing something that could get them hung for treason, I think our board should be fairly comfortable with talking to each other about how to build a plan to solve flooding or the purchase of a police car.