Now that the results are in, we know what sort of change to expect at the presidential level of government in these United States of America. We have elected a leader who promises to heal the old rifts, to show genuine compassion for the poor and middle class workers of America, to tackle immigration and health care reform, to improve education and to restore respect for our country around the world.
What does all this mean for Alameda?
Very little, unless we build a stronger leadership team here in this island town who can collaborate with federal programs, unless we elect people who can negotiate with the talented team of people President Obama will undoubtedly build around himself. In the past, we have too often shown a preference for the sort of “Aw Shucks” small town Sarah Palin types and good old boys more at home in Safeway or at Sears than in Sacramento, let alone Washington, D.C.
As we look forward to our own next elections for mayor and city council, we can take our cues from this recent national election. Obama’s great strength has always been his communication skills, as well as his grace under pressure. He is first of all a writer, then an incredibly good speaker, and his team of advisors and campaign workers the most disciplined we’ve seen in years.
The best politicians, of course, think for themselves, and communicate their ideas and policies with power, but they also play well with others. They know how to pull the levers of government for getting things done, for accomplishing big things and making the most of every opportunity. They are clever and wily, but they also like people and know how to persuade and influence them.
Politics is all about results and outcomes, and in that respect, the leaders of Alameda have made a very poor showing. Alameda Naval Air Station re-development has stumbled and stalled and sputtered for way too long. City budget shortfalls show poor management. Submission of Measures H and P to the voters shows poor judgment. Constant contentious community debates around Towne Centre, the hospital, the new movie theater complex, and the Point display a serious lack of effective public relations.
If Alameda is to take advantage of the potential new collaborations with the federal government following this election, it will need to demonstrate more effective communication and negotiation skills than it has shown with the Navy, the county and the state. It’s not just a matter of getting a fair distribution of the pie, but also a good return on our investments as tax payers.
But in order to achieve that, the citizens of Alameda are going to have to raise their own standards for leadership much higher than they have ever been in the past. Higher than the abilities of our current mayor, or those of past members of the PUC who burdened Alameda Power & Telecom with $95 million in unresolved debt.
We have many people living here with the talent and the genius to serve us well. I know, for I’ve worked closely with many of them. We just have to convince them to run for office.