Friday, November 13, 2015

Leadership in El Paso

A conversation and disagreement with a fellow activist the other day inspired me to write this piece. We were at an event for a cause we both support and there was an elected official speaking. My activist buddy starts heckling the elected.

After the event we spoke about it and my buddy thinks its important to hold elected accountable to what they say. I obviously agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. But where we differed was the need to go after an elected that has been an ally to the cause.

My belief is that electeds that are allies to your cause need to be supported, not heckled. I feel like the ones that should be heckled are the ones that aren't around and never do anything. That is who we should be kicking in the ass to do more.

My buddy's belief is to demand more from allies and the ones that don't do anything.

I guess we are both right and we are both wrong.

But that really isn't the point. It got me to thinking about leadership in El Paso. And it reminded me of something former State Representative Norma Chavez used to say. I'll get to that later.

There are a couple of types of leader in El Paso - workhorses and show horses. The reality is the leaders that are the ones that actually push policy forward, whether you like them or not, or like their policies or not, are the ones that are work horses.

They are also the ones that usually have the most haters.

Why? Because its easy to like the bump-on-the-log ceremonial show horses. They don't do shit, so they don't upset anyone's little status quo. And frankly far too often in this town that passes for leadership. All they do is show up to meetings, vote no, and don't advocate for any plan, policy, or effort for their constituency. I'm sure you can think of a whole host of electeds that fit in this category of people that don't really accomplish anything.

It goes down to their political DNA. There are some people that genuinely want to make a difference or a change and they have a specific policy agenda and fight for it. They want to make a difference in this town. And yes, some of them do it for their own little movidas so that they can say they left their mark on El Paso.

Look even for all my criticism of Rep Svarzbein of being more of a follower and taking some really terrible votes, he at least has something tangible he's trying to accomplish - the trolley thing.

I personally hate the trolly project. Its dayton rims on a tractor.

I think its too expensive, doesn't accomplish a good for the community, is a misallocation of vital transportation dollars, and is over all dripping with douchedom.

BUT...Svarzbein has been dedicated to the project for a long time and even I have to admit that it is starting to generate some excitement. Hell I actually hope I'm proven wrong about the project eventually.

You have others that just want title and status. And they don't do a damn thing good with it. But they are at the ribbon-cutting, at the parade, and all the social high-profile stuff.

As someone who has been involved in this community for years, its frustrating to see those leaders. That is why no one who wants an effective policy change gravitates their way anyway. They just call them when they need a traffic signal or a pothole filled.

And they are at all levels. You have a couple members of the state delegation that are workers and get things done and you have a few that send a press release whenever they have a bowel movement or can get in front of a camera.

But the state delegation doesn't really generate haters because they are really only relevant for a few months at a time every other year. Shhh, don't tell them that. Most of them think they are the most important leaders in this town. They aren't, but they don't know that.

You can measure how effective an elected is by the number and decibel level of their haters. Thus state reps generally serve a long time and rarely have any legitimate competition. You only see the blood flow when there is an open seat.

Its members of council and commissioners court that get all the haterade. And that happens because they meet once a week and have no off-season like the state delegation.

Which goes back to what Norma often says.

"You only get hit when you're carrying the ball."

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