In an op-ed piece in Sunday’s Wichita Eagle, Interim Wichita City Manager Scott Moore makes the case that “the [Wichita city] council’s Dec. 2 vote demonstrated leadership and an ability to respond decisively to urgent community matters after appropriate public deliberations.” (Scott Moore: TIF Parking Change Showed Leadership, December 15, 2008)
Mr. Moore explains the problems with the public hearing that was held on December 2: “However, because of the holiday closure, the revisions did not reach council members until Monday afternoon, Dec. 1, the day before the public hearing. Better staff follow-up during the holiday break would have provided better public notification.”
The revisions referred to are the addition of up to $10 million in TIF funding for parking. To add some precision to Mr. Moore’s accounting, these revisions appeared on the city’s website sometime after 4:30 p.m. This was on the same day that the first version appeared. If someone fetches a document at noon, should they also have to check again later that day to see if the document has been updated? I didn’t. It appears that Wichita Eagle reporters and other news media didn’t either. Why would they?
As Mr. Moore explains earlier in his piece: “Nonetheless, city staff should have revised all documents appropriately so that the correct items could have been submitted to the council and the media and posted at the Web site www.wichita.gov for the public.” Also: “Although the process could have been conducted more openly …”
Mr. Moore and Wichita Eagle editorial writer Rhonda Holman agree that there were defects in the public hearing. (See The Process Should Be Most Important for analysis.) But Mr. Moore goes farther and actually praises Wichita city leaders for their leadership.
This is not leadership. Leaders own their mistakes and accept their consequences. Mr. Moore acknowledges city officials made mistakes, but he and other city officials and council members will not accept ownership. They will not accept the consequences of their mistakes.
Leadership at the December 2, 2008 meeting would have meant city staff or council members apologizing to the public for the last-minute changes to the plan and the defective notice. Leadership would have required a council member making a motion to delay the public hearing until citizens receive proper notice of the actual contents of the plan. Leadership would have required unanimous consent to this motion.
Except for council member Jim Skelton’s questioning, none of these leadership actions took place. Therefore, I must disagree with Mr. Moore’s characterization of city staff and council members as leaders.