Faithful Followers – A Community “Oath”

Wolk-Swear-in-2012by Robb Davis –

Those who were at the Davis City Council meeting on Tuesday evening July 10, 2012 experienced a moment of genuine excitement and hope in the midst of the many serious challenges we face as a city.  The excitement was, no doubt, a product of the fact that those in attendance were, for the most part, the supporters of one or more of the new Council members. However, even if one was not a backer of one or more of them, it was hard not to have a sense of pride at having participated in a process that delivered a new group of willing public servants ready to help us move forward as a community. With their smiling faces and friends and family at their sides, it was easy to clap and smile with them and wish them the best, even as the specter of the hard road ahead shadowed the room.

I suspect that part of the excitement was also due to the fact that we were participating in that all too rare (in our culture and time) event that one might call a public ritual.  Besides graduations, civil union ceremonies or memorial services we seem to participate in relatively few public rituals.  Far more rare are the ones that include our elected officials standing before us to make solemn vows-to take oaths and make promises to us as citizens.  The seriousness of the moment should not escape any of us as we consider the importance of leaders making promises to us-those whom they will lead.

As I stood there that evening it struck me that in many traditions and places when one group makes a commitment to another-when a leader makes a promise to a community-the group to whom a promise is made reciprocates by making their own commitments, pledges or promises-taking their own oaths in turn to complete a circle of dedication designed to solidify the foundations of community.

But we did not do this on Tuesday evening.  Those of us in attendance observed the promises, accepted them, but made no commitments in return. I would like to suggest that we should develop a further ritual to go along with our “swearing in” ceremonies to make it clear to our leaders that we are vested too in working towards the success and growth of our community.  To that end I offer a first attempt at a public promise from the citizens of Davis to the members of our City Council.  Would you join me in this promise and, if not, how would you change it?

We, the citizens of Davis, CA, promise to you, our elected officials to be faithful followers.

We do not promise to be blind followers.  We do not promise to follow you unquestioningly.

As faithful followers we commit, specifically to the following:

  • We commit to informing ourselves about the key decisions you must make so we can provide informed input into your deliberations.
  • We promise to argue fervently for what we feel is right. However
  • We accept that, quite frequently, our views are too narrow and that your task is to consider the bigger picture of the needs of our community as you make decisions. We commit to giving you the space to move beyond narrow interests to decide based on these larger considerations.
  • We promise to do conflict well-to season our arguments and words of disagreement with the salt that preserves our common bonds.
  • We promise to have the default conviction that your actions are based on the needs of the commonwealth, but we also commit to standing ready to challenge you publicly if we feel your decisions are based on your own personal interests.
  • We commit to holding you accountable to your own words and to the goals you set.
  • We promise to give you a chance to make right the things you get wrong and to not hold your corrected errors against you in the future.
  • We commit to listening first, to speaking honestly and without guile, to honoring the processes established for public input and to honoring differences of opinion.

As faithful followers we call upon you to lead transparently and faithfully.

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  1. Michael Harrington

    As very faithful followers, we promise we will keep reminding you to cut the budget, downsize and streamline that surface water project, handle staff like Reagan did the Soviets (“trust, but verify”), settle DACHA, and cut the fire crews down to 3 members, just like about 95% of the cities in California.

  2. concernedcitizen

    Good grief @Michael Harrington. Just give it a break for once. There’s like 10 people who comment on the Vanguard. We all know your viewpoint on things. You don’t need to harp on it incessantly.

  3. Michael Harrington

    Concerned: it’s my job. And if this CC doesn’t fix those obvious drains on our public fisc, I am going to do a lot more than blog. I have plans and I am upfront with the CC and senior staff. The clock is ticking. Saylor and Souza left the city in shambles. And it has to be repaired

  4. concernedcitizen

    Michael: I’m not saying the issues you raise aren’t valuable. I’m just saying that you don’t have to raise them on every single thread. You’re engaging a very, very small segment of the population in your posts. Might there be a different venue to raise your concerns/thoughts? I want to read about new viewpoints, not the same viewpoint over and over and over again. This is the exact reason I’m visiting the Vanguard less and less. Lack of new insights. It’s just the same mud-slinging regardless of the thread/stroy’s topic.

  5. concernedcitizen

    Beyond that, I’d rather see an approach that is less confrontational. The CC will do their best, but bully tactics aren’t the way to go in IMHO.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    I have a different view of that concerned. The commenting segment of this site has a small core group and a somewhat larger periodic group. But the readership of this site is quite large. I would be interested in your feedback as to ow to get more of those readers to participate.

  7. concernedcitizen

    David, I’d love the Vanguard to get more people posting to diversify the base of viewpoints. I’m not sure how best to go about that though. Maybe you could try posting a simple question on the topic on Facebook, then importing the responses into the blog post (rss?). I know the readership is much larger, but how to get them to engage is certainly a challenge.

    You might also consider searching for ideas regarding community engagement. I bet there’s something on there.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I would be interested in your feedback as to how to get more of those readers to participate.[/quote]

    From some I have heard, they hesitate to comment on the Vanguard for fear of being “attacked”. Others say they don’t dare comment for fear of being recognized, even in their writing style.

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