Thursday, March 26, 2009

"We Don't Govern in Anger"

I got a phone call from a very nice woman the other day. She’d watched the Council meeting and was concerned that I was showing my anger. She supports me and what I’m doing, voted for me, and really was concerned and wanted me to do well. I thanked her for her comments and really appreciated her taking the time to call and talk to me about it. I’ve found that in politics there are all kinds of criticism, but not often constructive criticism. I appreciate the meaning behind it.

I also looked into myself to do a gut check. I’m a very passionate person, always have been. I think passion is what drives me to keep working hard, keep trying, keep fighting. I know very well that this can be positive and negative, depending on timing, location and control.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at channeling my anger, not letting it overwhelm or become destructive or hurtful to others. I say I’ve gotten better, but not perfect! Amongst my siblings, we all argue who got my father’s Portuguese temper, and it’s probably a tie with me and my brother. He hides it better now though.

Am I showing my anger right now? Definitely. Because I am angry. I’m angry that the Council majority wasted the opportunity that bankruptcy provided us to fix our structural deficit, to get our employee salaries and benefits in line with what this city can afford to pay. I’m angry that the Council majority knew about the $13 million deficit in January when they voted to approve the police and CAMP contracts, giving police free health care and guaranteed raises – and tying our hands from making changes in the future. I’m angry that the Council majority is firing our city manager in the middle of all this mess, leaving us without a management leader, solid experience, or critical financial acumen. I’m angry that I had look into the faces of so many children at the Council meeting last Tuesday as they pleaded with us to save their swimming pool. I’m angry that the national and state economy is hitting us at a time when we are already down, when we can least weather the blows. I’m angry that we’re having to fight our employees in bankruptcy court, to spend money fighting an appeal on whether we are insolvent all the while we sink further and further into deficit. I’m angry that we even had to hear the word “unincorporate” in relation to our future.

I’m angry and frustrated because I want to help fix Vallejo’s problems, but have had to watch a Council majority make decision after decision that takes us further into dangerous waters, sinks us further into the hole.

Should I not show that anger? I don’t think so. I think the residents of Vallejo are angry, too. I think we have to be as honest as possible about what got us here and how we can recover. I think we have to be honest about how we feel about the decisions being made. I think we have to face up to the facts and make extremely difficult and painful choices.

I am angry. Now let’s get on with the tough choices so we can move beyond anger and on to recovery. As President Obama said in his interview with Steve Kroft in response to the citizens' rage over the AIG executive bonuses, "We don't govern in anger."