This week marks the beginning of the next typical every two years purge within city government that many voters believe is necessary or wise to bring order and effectiveness to city government.
City Council begins another two year term with only one member having any background on current city issues or any experience, even if only for a short period of time, dealing with current operations and personnel.
What could be problematic is the fact that mayor and council members must immediately begin the coming year's budget and tax cycle as well as police and fire negotiations on their contracts. There is not time for delaying these highly involved and interrelated issues that will determine city, employee and taxpayer financial futures.
The new mayor and council come into office amidst an extremely controversial and confrontational election campaign. It was of the most publicly divisive elections Alice has seen in a number of years. An irony is that some of the candidates and their backers, who continually criticized what they viewed as negative thinking and talking from most incumbent officeholders and their supporters, actually became the most intensely active and vocal aggressors towards city officials and employees.
Many are waiting to see if and how our new city council can make the transition from campaign mode to leadership roles. There is a huge difference.
Almost immediately the mayor and council must determine priorities and budget choices that will be decidedly pivotal to the fate of the entire city. During a campaign, certain statements and promises can be made. But can they be delivered on in light of potential double digit budget deficits over the next several years, and immediately critical infrastructure and capital equipment needs. Spending and taxes must be brought under control if economic stability and growth is to be realized. Grants alone cannot save any entity with deep and longterm fiscal problems.
A battle over wants versus needs can be anticipated on several fronts as services, projects, programs, and departments should come under scrutiny for their necessity and utility as budget choices are set. Conflicting demands can be expected to come from various sectors as city proceeds with budget and negotiation process. City leaders must decide whether to appease or lead with discernment and clear understanding of a realistic and ever changing picture.
Campaigning might be about hopes and wishes. Governing through real leadership, however, is about studying, listening, and recognizing greater interests than election slogans and rallied promoters.