"Achieving Our Vision" – Is it a Mirage?
Ventura County Local Politics – December 14, 2010
Op-ed on the Goals of Leadership in Our City
By F. William Bracy
It would take a good deal of imagination to think that everyone's vision for the future – for prosperity … for growth … for opportunity – could somehow be brought into perfect alignment over a phrase like “Achieving Our Vision.” The first question out of anyone's mouth should be, “Whose vision?” We think that there are not many Venturans who understand what this vision is supposed to represent.
Then there is the “Partnering for Prosperity” concept. We think it likely that even fewer Venturans understand the principles behind this vision component, if it can be called that, leading to the second question, “Whose prosperity?”
And thirdly, where are the conspicuously missing Ugly Step-children of this vision, such as “Partnering for Personal Growth and Partnering for Personal Opportunity when the emphasis is all on business? We think that these, the present-by-implication-only components of ”The Vision,” come somewhat closer to addressing the needs and desires of the average Venturan.
The Back StoryThe mayor went some distance in explaining “The Vision” in his State of the City address back in February, which we invite everyone to read by clicking here. The problem we're having with this is that it is pure William F. Buckley, Jr. – the man who instructed Ronald Reagan on almost everything the former President ever knew about politics. Let us not mislead ourselves. It has led us, this day, to the vilification of collective bargaining units and public pension funds to such an extent that ordinary families right here in Ventura are finding it difficult to place quality food before their children at the dinner table. In other words, it is our suggestion that there is nothing new here, and it leads us to the first question we shall ask City Manager Cole: “Are we indeed committing the sins of our fathers.”
Because as it turns out, the reader will find that there is absolutely no mention of “Partnering for Personal Growth” in the mayor's address. It's all about business growth. And the reason why there is no mention of personal growth is because Bill Buckley's brand of ideology forbids it. The address is clearly that of an elected official fulfilling his obligation to public accountability by speaking directly to his constituents as is expected of those who seek office in a representative form of government. But did business entities elect this person – this mayor – to office? Or was it the resident … the registered voter … the community activist and volunteer who elected him? You might even question what you always thought you knew about our form of government after reading this paper.
The Back Story Back StoryPerhaps it is less than crystal clear to some as to what is meant by personal growth, so let us suggest here that personal growth means moving forward in life, raising a family, but as older people understand perfectly well, not being a burden to children and family should they become infirm or weak with old age. The choice is clear – move forward with this cherished idea or go back to the days where every young family lived with an aged parent. So if personal growth means anything at all it means the right to remain independent throughout the whole of one's life. Americans should think long and hard before allowing Reaganites to interfere with a system that has been working perfectly for three and in some cases four generations. The fact that we are even thinking about doing so is the best indication we have of how flawed ideology has moved America off the road of progress and into the ditch of despair.
If we have learned nothing else about the trickle-down theory of economics, (which, until we can be shown otherwise, is, in fact the “Vision for Ventura”) we should have learned that the business mindset can be (and often is) a fickle one. We created the most profitable business climate in the world by keeping inflation low and by paying attention to factors such as consumer confidence. And yet the business mind began seeing, with the help of government, yet greater business profits in Mexico, China and the rest of the economically developing world – policies which at the same time devastated Mexico's economy, it should be noted, along with those of Chile, Argentina, Haiti and several of our protectorates.
Yet through it all, corporate profits have risen to astronomical levels – CEO compensation has gone from seven times the worker's salary to 1,000 times their salaries, all while the average working American was being assured that the rising tide would “lift all boats.” There is no longer any question in the thinking person's mind that the failure of this principle is the dirty little DNA secret that is being passed on from father to son as part of today's – yes, fickle – take-the-money-and-run business climate in America.
Let us not be fooled any longer by “taxpayers associations” and the like who are really being suspended by the purse strings of big business. Let it be said that with all the visioning in the world, no one can be assured that by rolling out the red and gold carpeting … at tremendous civic expense, usually … that business will adhere to any of the sorts of promises they give us – community spirit, community development, jobs etc., etc.
What proves this? Why, the mayor's own accounting proves it. If you haven't clicked the link and read the mayor's address, then you didn't catch the reference to one of our city's great success stories – the home-grown, born and bred saga of a local “techie” who founded a 21st Century enterprise using all the visioning resources made available through Partnering for Prosperity, and which now employs 50 people while operating, quite profitably, thank you, out of Carpinteria.
We implore you to speak up and share with us your thoughts. Use the email link on this website by clicking “Contact Us,” and we will do our best to put some of your questions to City Manager Rick Cole directly in our upcoming mid-January videotaped interview which you will see in revue right here in living color.
We all know the phrase, “When you find yourself in a hole, it's time to stop digging,” and to go along with that, we would hate to think of our civic leaders' “vision” as actually being a mirage.