I heard this might be my last opportunity to address Betty as councilmember and wanted to take the time to thank her for her years of service to the community.
Even in my term on the Promotions Committee, with far far less responsibility than yours, I came to realize the enormous burden of having to read, review, and comprehend extraordinary amounts of information on which so many public decisions depend. I can appreciate the work that must go into that on a citywide level. One thing I always depended upon, and was grateful for, was the knowledge that when such situations came before the City Council, I could be sure that Betty had indeed read the material. Read it with extreme diligence. Due diligence, as a functioning democracy demands nothing less.
Perhaps this was a result of her background as a Midwestern prairie populist in the truest sense—something akin to a cross between Will Rogers and Woodie Guthrie, men of the people who could reflect and feel for the people without ever talking down to them.
With that populism came a type of leadership, one that leads through education, and leaders who take the time to educate themselves, and in doing so help to educate the community at large. Leadership that doesn't simply pound an open fist on the pile of documents and say, "Well, it looked good to me, so I'm for this." Betty demonstrated leadership that says, "This report seems pretty good, but what's this contradictory statement on page 239?"
Like any good teacher, she knows that it's never what the teacher tells the students. Students in THAT classroom come away with some facts, but no skills for learning. Like any good teacher, she knows the most important thing to give the students—and in her public role on the council, the citizens—are the TOOLS they need to learn to ask the questions of the processes and projects that will impact their lives. This is a leadership not of edict, but of inquiry. Naysayers might complain that all these questions "get in the way" and "slow things down." Perhaps. But in retrospect, for example, don't you think the residents in all those small decimated towns along the gulf coast now wish that perhaps their elected officials had maybe asked a few more questions when they gave the gung-ho green light to all that offshore all drilling? It seems that ALL have questions now.
And so thank you, Betty, for your encouragement of process, openness, and transparency. Of, what the Quakers refer to as "reciprocal pedagogy." Now, I'd love to stay longer tonight, but I have to go home and prepare for a three hour conference call with the nuclear regulatory commission tomorrow morning. I really don't have anything to tell them, but I'm sure I'll have some questions.
From comments delivered to the City Council meeting on December 8, 2010