A private citizen’s reflections on our city council’s 2 Day Kentucky Retreat.
Having made the trip to Lake Barkley, I was impressed with the diversity of ideas expressed by our council members and city department heads. As for the event location, it was quicker to drive to Lake Barkley Resort than Paris Landing. It would have been good to have held this function instate, but that was not the decision.
The ideas, goals and mission statement of the retreat represent a declared new vision for our city. The actual realization of those ideals will be the real test. The promised final report should be “must reading” for all citizens and residents. Pour over it with a fine tooth comb. Capital projects will likely warrant intense and dynamic scrutiny by the electorate. Proposals will not meet with everyone’s approval. These officials have agreed upon a plan for Clarksville’s future. Our future.
As such, WE MUST:
- be diligent in attending the details of those plans;
- make ourselves fully informed of the facts of those plans, proposals and initiatives;
- share our interpretations of these plans and goals with our elected and appointed government officials and provide them with coherent feedback and suggested alternatives, where appropriate;
- hold our government accountable for non-waiverable mandates, dictates and requirements of federal law and oversight which protect and insure receipt of federal financial assistance to our city and correct any deficiencies wherever they may exist, to include seeking federal assistance to make those corrections. This will insure continued eligibility for federal financial assistance. It will also enhance our status as a community that embraces and supports its diversity.;
- the city image should be upgraded, city beautification projects must be crafted for all areas of the city, and private efforts should be recognized for their participation. However, any deficiency also should not be ignored or hidden away, but rather, given due diligence to achieve a positive resolution.
The realization of the proposed changes will entail pursuit of new revenue streams, and that was recognized as not meaning increased or new taxes. Proposals to tackle old and emerging problems were also discussed.
Public safety was addressed. It cannot be emphasized enough that our law enforcement leaders have all declared that incarceration alone IS NOT the answer. Young people MUST have clear, viable opportunities to develop their potential talents. They MUST have clear, identifiable means to address social and academic shortcomings that preclude the judicial system. Human resource is our greatest asset in economic recruitment and development. Locking our young people away in penal situations wastes one of our most valuable asset for growth. Resources to aid law enforcement must be updated in a timely fashion. Recreational outlets for all levels of our socio-economic diversity MUST be addressed. Recreation outlets need to be increased in previously underserved areas of our city community. Additionally, new outlets MUST be incorporated in our ever expanding growth infrastructure model.
These are realities facing Clarksville. This retreat was presented to the public as an effort to confront, analyze and prioritize those realities. Citizen input will be crucial to accomplishing these goals so essential to our future. Be factual, analytical and concise. Forget the emotional, petty and vindictive. This game is serious business and those negatives will only insure defeat if you pursue them.
Being an informed, attentive and involved citizenry is our only true option in this coming upheaval. Those who fail to get on board will surely be left behind at the train station. Where will you be?
Having served on three “Future Search” panels (two for colleges revisioning themselves for the 21st century and one for the City of Northampton (MA) on the specific issue of homelessness (related to jobs, education, transportation, housing, health etc) in that city, I am very familiar with the process of creating strategies to address issues by defining problems, finding solutions, formulating strategies for creative growth and development, and establishing direction. It is a lengthy process that only begins with such meetings. The real work is yet to come. I would hope that as this process unfolds, more and diverse members of the community will become involved in the process. Clarksville also has one fairly unique difference from many communities in that a large chunk of its population is transient, i.e., military families who are usually here for limited periods of time and are therefore not necessarily vested in the community for the long haul but remain consumers of what the city has to offer.
The notion that military families are not vested in their residential communities is outdated. Today’s Army assignments are long term. Personnel are assigned to units, becoming “home-based,” which means, that in the case of the 101st, these soldiers will always return here to Fort Campbell. The units deploy together as a unit and return that way. Team cohesion it’s called.
Thus military families do vest themselves in their residential communities. This makes for a great asset to Clarksville. Experienced minds with different and new thinking to tackle problems yet resolved here.
I’m only noting that in the past several years, since I have lived here, I’ve met friends who are here today and stationed elsewhere tomorrow. My granddaughter has lost best friends, and even an employer, when their families were transferred to other states and even other countries. Not everyone at Fort Campbell is “permanent.” Transfers happen beyond and around the deployments. People – military included – do vest themselves in communities, but it is not always permanent, not guaranteed. I am a “newbie,” relatively speaking to this city, with a family mission on my agenda, and with 3 1/2 years as a resident of the south. I have found a niche, for now, and hope my passing through here makes a difference in a positive way while I am here, maybe even after I move on.
I like to commend the council members on trying to take this positive step, however, these types of meetings are nothing new, they have been tried in the past. Please note the following from 2004:
Leaders Take Look at City’s Strengths
Sept 27 2004
By JAMES RITCHIE The Leaf-Chronicle
City Council members and candidates analyzed Clarksville’s strengths and weaknesses as part of the council’s strategic planning process.
At a meeting last week, the group listed among strengths the city’s growth, its location near Fort Campbell and along a river (my note: does sound familar?), its bus system and its low unemployment rate relative to many communities.
Some of the weaknesses determined were lack of long-term planning, ineffective communication between city leaders and an outdated city charter. (My note: these same points were made in this past meeting.)
During the next strategic planning session, scheduled for Oct. 5, the group expects to begin looking at values and determining a vision and mission to guide the city, said Jim Rhody, a training consultant with the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service, which is facilitating the sessions.
Ward 10 Councilman A.D. Caldwell, who has attended all of the planning sessions so far, said getting input from MTAS is a good idea because its representatives have a wealth of knowledge of how other cities have tackled problems.
“There’s always somebody out there who’s done it before and knows the pitfalls,” he said.
In addition to Caldwell, council members in attendance were Barbara Johnson of Ward 1, Ken Takasaki of Ward 2, Morrell Boyd of Ward 11 and Ann Henderson of Ward 6, who was present for part of the meeting. Mayor Don Trotter also attended a portion of the session.
Seven City Council candidates also participated.
They had another meeting:
Article published Nov 27, 2004
City Council writes out new mission
Mission statement is part of strategic plan for Clarksville
By JAMES RITCHIE The Leaf-Chronicle
City Council members have crafted a mission statement as part of their strategic planning efforts.
“The city of Clarksville’s mission is to protect the health and safety of our citizens and natural environment, efficiently provide selected quality services, and partner with other private, public and non-profit organizations to plan and manage the physical, cultural, and economic growth of the region,” the statement reads.
Next on the agenda is determining a vision statement, said facilitator Jim Rhody, a training consultant from the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service.
“We’re in the downhill stage,” he said. “We’re in the most difficult stage, but we’ve got a lot less to do than we have already done.”
Writing a vision statement involves discussions “largely about the role of government in people’s lives” and presents “more potential for conflicting views,” he said.
“I’ve not really seen any signs of acrimony,” Rhody said, “just genuine disagreement on issues and philosophy.”
The council has held the strategic planning meetings, open to all members, about once a month since June. Attendance has been sporadic because the meetings have been held in the daytime when some council members had other obligations. Council members in attendance at a meeting this week were Ken Takasaki of Ward 2, Ann Henderson of Ward 6, Mary Nell Wooten of Ward 7, A.D. Caldwell of Ward 10 and Wayne Harrison of Ward 12, along with Ward 8 electee Jim Doyle.
Caldwell, who has attended all of the meetings, said the process is a way for the government to balance its priorities. But the plan will be effective, he said, only if it receives the support of the full current council and of future council members.
“If the majority doesn’t buy in, it doesn’t work,” Caldwell said. He said the process has been well worth his time.
“Some of us, and I wish more of us, are getting together and talking about positive things for the future,” he said, “and that’s the best product we can have from our efforts in this particular process.”
Takasaki said the effort is needed.
“We have no strategic plan,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to address. For a city with a budget of $52 million and a population of 105,000, we need to have a strategic plan that addresses the needs of the community and provides a direction for the future.”
The next strategic planning meeting is set for 4 p.m. Jan. 18.
The point to all this is that the city “Leadership” have had meetings, made promises and said things that were never followed through. The people DO NOT TRUST THE LEADERSHIP. There is a lack of honor and integrity within the government as a whole (I do concede that there are some that have these qualities, but they are few).
The latest “retreat” means nothing in and of itself. What they proposed is nothing new as witnessed above. And yes I know that there are some new members on the council (this includes the Mayor since he is a member of the council — another questionable aspect that shows the weakness/failure of the charter) but so far all this just enforces the old saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
“The right of freely examining public character and measures, and of free communication among the people… has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.”
(James Madison, Virginia Resolution 1798)
True, there have been efforts and attempts to chart our course more clearly in the past. Their failure can be traced to one consistent factor: the inattention of the citizens of Clarksville to hold their elected officials accountable. Apathy is too rampant here.
Without citizen involvement and oversight, there will undoubtedly be more of these “vision” sessions with no other results than money in someone’s coffers for food and lodging and some “feel good” media exposure.
Clarksvillians must abandon their apathy and become engaged in their government’s affairs and conduct. There’s no way around it. When the people don’t involve themselves, government runs stagnant and inefficient. Perhaps this will be their wake-up call!