Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question: Is consensus on council important and how do you plan to work across ideological lines?
We six candidates interact often, and I’m encouraged by the strong civility we share. That mutual respect would absolutely follow any three of us into City Hall.
I’m specifically attracted to our Council’s non-partisan nature. In Flagstaff, we all shop for milk in the same handful of stores—nobody is anonymous. This creates space for civil discourse, and our ability to debate as peers fosters opportunities for better solutions. As locals, we’re capable of tackling thorny problems without resorting to the tired, tribal bickering plaguing our national politics.
I’m the only council candidate endorsed by the Sierra Club and also the only candidate endorsed by our local firefighter union. This combination of support speaks to my broad appeal and potential for consensus-building.
My views respect complexity and rarely stuff neatly into a box. I’m a good listener, and voters will have my ear, no matter where they’re coming from politically.
Consensus building is very important for council. We must be able to negotiate, respect others’ positions, and engage in constructive dialogue. To be clear, consensus decision making is not the same as unanimous decision making. Council chambers should not be an echo chamber with 7-0 voting behavior. It’s our job to represent the voices of the people, and those voices don’t always agree. Consensus means approaching opposing views with both criticism and tolerance, act in an inclusive manner, and work towards more than a simple majority.
The way to work across ideological lines is to maintain open lines of communication. The ideological lines on one issue are different than another, and a communication breakdown can fundamentally disrupt good governance. It creates competing factions, where egos get in the way of serving the people. We won’t always agree, but when we disagree it should be in a civilized, respectful manner.
Ask any resident of Flagstaff what he or she wants in life and the answers will be remarkably similar: a great job, freedom to make choices, the best opportunities for our children and over all happiness. Yet, partisan animosity has increased substantially over the past two decades across our nation, cities and towns. This has led to political polarization and a decrease of productive work by our elected officials. There are serious issues that confront our city and need immediate attention like water, economic development, housing and safety issues. What is needed is serious discussion of the policies that will make Flagstaff a better place to live and work.
It is crucial to put ideology aside and present facts, listen carefully and be willing to compromise, thereby putting animosity aside and doing what is best for the people of Flagstaff. In this way, working towards consensus is possible.
I pursue balanced, pragmatic leadership by focusing on local issues and seeking participation, inclusion and consensus. Anchored on shared values and common purpose, consensus is my core principle in serving our Flagstaff’s diverse communities and citizens. My extensive background in all levels of government, nonprofits, academe and enterprises here and from the Philippines are unique valuable strengths I bring to city leadership.
As an experienced mediator, I have facilitated parties with conflicting interests and diametrically opposed ideologies to sit down, work together and achieved win-win solutions. I offer these steps in building consensus:
1) Identify the root of the problem or issue.
2) Recognize underlying intentions and interests.
3) Explore options for solutions.
4) Agree on a resolution.
Open-mindedness, non-violent communication and emphatic listening are integral to consensus. In intense and emotionally-charged situations, I may ask for a recess and invite everyone to take meditative breathing and yoga stretches.
As a retired business executive, collaborating and listening are two key themes as to why I am running for the Flagstaff City Council. It will be critical to have a unified council that can reach consensus as to infrastructure (especially water delivery); choosing our new City Manager; addressing compensation of our city’s employees in order to retain them; and focusing on our approximate $100 million unfunded pension obligation earned by our current and retired public safety employees, plus the pensions for our other city employees.
Indeed there are several different viewpoints on issues facing our various constituencies within the city. If elected, I commit to respecting and listening to my fellow council members.
I strongly value working toward consensus and finding creative alternatives. If elected to council, I’d seek compromises as often as possible while observing the majority rule for yes or no decisions. I’d like to see council reach agreements rather than fall into the patterns of 4-3 majority rule vote. I see council’s responsibility as serving all of the community, not just those whose votes they sought.
Decisions council makes today affect future generations, and I take that responsibility seriously. I will always think long-term in my decision-making process. If elected, I will apply my skills and experiences helping people and groups find consensus whenever possible. I value time for discussion, council minority concerns, and collaborative process. Public representatives serve their communities best when they lead by example and listen to one another.
Thanks to my ten years of serving on Flagstaff’s city council I have a long track record of working across ideological lines. For me, serving on council has never been about ideology, it’s about good governance and that requires both vigorous debate and consensus building.
That’s how we got the veteran’s home, the minimum wage compromise, the transportation and housing initiatives, any number of achievements from the Flagstaff city council have been attained through bipartisan consensus building. It’s a record I am proud of.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at email@example.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on twitter @AdrianSkabelund.
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