Everyone has their most favorite day in the year. It could be Christmas, or Thanksgiving or even your birthday, but mine is National Night-Out. There is no greater enjoyment to me than to be able to take part in events that build civic pride.
These neighborhood organizations, clubs and associations spend weeks and months preparing for this annual event which focuses on crime prevention. Each year we donate nearly a thousand dollars to several of these groups to help them cover the expense in putting on this wonderful event. If I'm so fortunate to be elected as County Commissioner I will push for greater funding for events like National Night-Out.
These neighborhood groups are on the front line against crime, blight, and apathy but our City and County provides little support for those who give so much. This is short sighted and why it is important to start putting community activist in elected offices.
Each year I see fewer and fewer elected officials taking the time to come out to these events. I guess for good reasons because many have no answer to why these residents have basically been forgotten. Where are the resources to help them?
I can not tell you the number of meetings, and think tanks, and round table gatherings I have participated in. The number is too great. Nearly all at some point will point out the need to "connect" to the community, as if it is that easy. What many fail to understand is it's not about connecting; it's about being hard wired into our communities.
It's about making a long term investment in change. I remember Mayor Herenton's declaration of the "Decade of the Neighborhood." He said, "Strong neighborhoods make for a strong city." I give him credit for the thought, but the follow through was weak. Now not all of it was his fault. He believed businesses would step up to the plate and most didn't. It’s important to note that the type of mayor that Herenton was also played against him when it came to civic development. Herenton was a macro mayor. He looked at the big picture and felt by focusing on that the rest would fall into place. Macro mayors are visionarians, they look out to the horizon and are often loners. This can be very good for plotting long term growth. The problem with macronians is that they can't be bothered by the "little things," which most often is us. When things go wrong macro mayors are often blamed and receive the brunt of public outrage.
The opposite of the macro mayor of course is the micro mayor. These mayors live by the creed that the "Devil is in the detail." These mayors are often most accessible to the public. They often start off believing in greater community input but if they are not good time managers this openness becomes more of a burden than a way to interact with the citizens. The key problem with micro managers is that they can smother the creativity of others.
The next elected Mayor of Memphis needs to be able visualize where he/she wants to move the City and be able to engage the citizens and instill that dream into them as well. This mayor will need to balance between the micro and the macro, but the only way this can happen is that there is a way to connect to the average Joe on the street. This is where civic organizations can play such an important role. They become the venue by which public officials can connect, engage, and share ideas, but if we do not invest in them we kill whatever hope we may have in moving Memphis forward.
What are your thoughts?