The other day, I was donating a box of books to the Rohnert Park Library. Half of them were Lee Child/Jack Reacher novels, which any library is glad to see, and the other half were books by Dick Morris, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. To my surprise, no alarms went off when these right-wing volumes crossed the threshold, and the walls remained standing as I left the building.
But on the way out, a splash of color caught my eye. It was a nicely drawn chart on a large piece of posterboard. For some reason, it was tucked against the wall, behind the glass door, where it could hardly be seen. A few words jumped out, though: “DRAFT 3-5 YEAR GOALS AND STRATEGIES”. I have an unhealthy interest in the strange things city governments do, and how they earn their paychecks, so I took a closer look.
It turned out to be a classic example of the way government people think and talk these days, so here’s a picture of the poster that Economic Development Manager Linda Babonis was kind enough to send. I apologize if the image is a bit fuzzy, so I’ll translate the key ideas. According to this document, here’s what your civic leaders think you want them to do:
You want them to “Practice Participative Leadership at all Levels.” That’s Goal A, so it’s a big deal, whatever the heck it means. Goal B is to “Achieve and Maintain Financial Stability.” If that’s a goal, it must mean they haven’t gotten there yet. In fact, underneath the heading, there’s a sentence that said “Establish fiscal recovery plan.” Until somebody changed it to say “Follow through with fiscal recovery plan.” So it’s nice to know somebody thinks they have one. Goal C is to “Ensure the Effective Delivery of Public Services.” Can’t argue with that.
Goal D is a bit more vague, “ Continue to Develop a Vibrant Community.” I’ve seen shows on Animal Planet where they describe parrots as having “vibrant” feathers. So I’m not entirely sure about backing this vibrant community thing. But everywhere else I’ve heard the “V” word, it usually means “bicycle-friendly, pedestrian-friendly, traffic-calmed vibrant public spaces” where you’re supposed to live in a small apartment above a yogurt shop.
Of course, those are just the vague big picture goals. When you get down to the details, you find… more vague wishes wrapped in a fog of multisyllables. Here are a few of my favorites: “Align the organizational culture to demonstrate our values.” “Develop partnerships to achieve economies of scale.” “Improve accountability and continuous improvement through performance management and managing for results.”
I have read every word of this poster half a dozen times, and it looks like they forgot a word or two that used to be important when you have a city to run. Here are five little words you won’t find anywhere on this large poster:
Police. Fire. Streets. Potholes. Business.
Maybe they’ll get around to those in the ten-year plan.