“Focused discussion”; “holding people accountable”; “goal-setting”; “identifying resources”; “facilitated discussion”; “bringing together resources”; “moving the needle”. Today’s buzzwords that sound like great intentions and imply real action. Have these phrases sounded similar to what our Mayor has been using these last couple of months to justify expenditures on several high priced programs to help our community? Welcome to Community Organizing 101.
Who can argue with the basic tenant of Community Organizing? A group or person identifies a need, works to bring together a community behind the chosen need, then works to identify and harness resources working together to end the need. You hold meetings with focused discussion, you state a “goal” for each meeting and “identify resources” to achieve that week’s or month’s goal. And you have a professional facilitator to guide these discussions. You need a professional because regular folks who live in the community don’t have the proper training or education to do any this on their own. Most community-organization type groups are non-profits who rely on private donations, or a mix of public/private donations to keep them running and achieving their goals. Most goals are so generic or filled with buzzwords they are almost impossible to achieve and with little or no concrete baseline for success, or even program termination dates, the money keeps flowing while hands are wrung and more grandiose plans are announced.
We have seem to a have proliferation of organizations/consultants or individuals for hire who’ve found a home here in Apopka, turning our town into a Community Organizer Haven, with a Mayor who is all too happy to open the City’s checkbook to them. How’s that working for Apopka so far? Lobbyist/Consultant Richard Anderson, former Chief Administrative Officer for our city: Retired, taking 2 pensions, plus $350,000.00 for unused sick and vacation time, and now being paid $23,000/month by our city to Lobby and consult. What has he done for us lately? We will probably never know because he considers himself to be unanswerable to the taxpayers who pay his exorbitant salary. What was that about accountability, Mr. Mayor?
We have a professional consultant group conducting the Mayor’s Visioning process, a process that allowed citizens to say “I want, I want”. $125,000 spent so well, two more special “listening” sessions must be conducted this month. Will these consultants be held accountable for any additional expense here, or delays in their report?
And now $20,000.00 of taxpayer money being spent with a friend of the Mayor’s to fix our schools through another program of meetings, finding resources, setting goals and having more meetings. And even more money to be spent in the coming years. Let’s be honest, this one could go for years, but it’s for the kids, so how cold and cruel of anyone who dares question or complains.
What is really going on here? Our city is being community organized to death. We are becoming a city of, by and for paid outside consultants and lobbyists. The Mayor said in an interview with the Apopka Chief, “You can’t just ask people to do things on a volunteer basis”. WHY NOT? Our City’s Clubs and service organizations, not to mention parents groups in the schools are all RUN by volunteers and they do an outstanding job. He went on to imply that only a CAT team with a $10,000/school facilitator can conduct a focused meeting that sets goals and holds people accountable. Wow, the smug arrogance of a Community Organizer who apparently does not think enough of the citizens who elected him to handle this for ourselves.
Here’s the deal, Mr. Mayor. Apopka is a GREAT town filled with smart, savvy citizens and business owners who are capable of so much more than you are willing to give them credit for. We DO NOT NEED fancy, high priced outside consultants or consulting firms, or a lobbyist to do the work of our City. We do not want or need to be community organized. The Citizens of Apopka know what needs to be done in this town, we LIVE here, we SEE it every day. Why don’t you just try asking US for help first? Throwing money at a problem and community organizing it to death will NOT solve the problem.