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DAVID ROSMAN: Memo to the mayor — it's politics and it's not personal

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | 3:54 p.m. CDT; updated 6:46 a.m. CDT, Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dear Mayor Bob,

Get over it.

Let me tell you about a lesson I learned a long time ago from then-Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colorado.

I was caught in the middle of a skirmish between Pat and a reporter at the late Rocky Mountain News. The reporter did not like Pat, and whenever he could, he would find a way to poke the bear, or in this case, the donkey.

I had just finished chairing a committee for the congresswoman, which resulted in a paper concerning affirmative action. To make a long story short, I was misquoted — badly.

So badly that I was receiving telephone calls from The New York Times and the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune for clarification. I even got a call from the BBC.

I was so embarrassed that I wanted to leave the planet.

Pat called me into her office to talk with her chief of staff. Together, they listened to my plight and waited until my energy waned, then gave me a piece of advice I have carried for years:

It's politics. Don’t take it personally.

You're upset because the City Council's and your position concerning new construction downtown is being challenged. It is not personal, though you may believe it is.

It is politics, and you and the council screwed up by putting the Opus Development Co.'s project on a fast track after you told the people of Columbia that downtown cannot support new development because of its aging infrastructure.

You received a petition that forces you and the council to reconsider your position or force a vote by the citizens of our fair city to voice their position.

You are afraid that Columbia may be sued, but really Mr. Mayor, I think you are more concerned about your own political position and the promises you made to developers.

I know that other commentators do not agree with me on this issue, but I believe the petitioners need to be listened to and that the actions of the City Council need to be re-evaluated.

More than 3,600 citizens signed the petition to overturn the council's decision on the Opus development, and I believe you need to take responsibility and hold public hearings at time convenient to the people of Columbia, not during special sessions called specifically to bypass such discussions.

It does not matter if Opus made a "valid request for a building permit" as prescribed by city ordinance. That does not mean that such a permit need be automatically approved.

I believe, as do other members of the council, that these are voices that must be heard and that the issue needs to be re-examined.

Council could decide to allow Opus to build new student housing, but what this city really needs is more affordable housing and rental units. This city needs to update an antiquated sewer and water system for The District, not in sections but as a major project.

I am sorry that you are angry at the prospect that your decision has been questioned and that you did not foresee such a radical reaction from the public concerning Opus and other developments downtown.

Maybe you just did not make your arguments clear enough or strong enough to justify the building of more luxury student housing.

In addition to Rep. Schroeder’s advice, let me repeat: Get over it.

Yes, if the city backs off the new housing project, there may be a civil suit. Yes, that would cost us money, but you and council did ramrod this one through the system.

Council members may not have foreseen the backlash, but that is not the problem of the residents of Columbia.

Other commentators believe that the petition is not "legal," without giving reason for that position. Whether or not the petition meets the requirements, I advise you to take it seriously .

So, Mayor Bob, take a deep breath, let it out slowly and repeat until your blood pressure is back to normal.

Get a good night's rest and come back to this problem fresh in the morning. Allow the citizens to voice their opinions and the council to reconsider theirs.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.


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Comments

Ellis Smith April 30, 2014 | 5:22 p.m.

There are quotes, and there are misquotes; I ran across this quote the other day:

"Via ovicipitum dura est, or, for the benefit of the engineers* among you: The way of the egghead is hard." - Adlai Stevenson, lecture at Harvard University, March 17, 1954.

We don't hear the term "egghead" used frequently these days. It then referred to a person generally regarded as being a true intellectual, which Stevenson was. Stevenson ran unsuccessfully twice (1952, 1956) for the presidency; at the 1960 Democratic national convention no less a personage than Elinor Roosevelt made an impassioned speech urging a third nomination, but Stevenson demurred. (He possibly didn't want to become a second William Jennings Bryan.)

Stevenson's speeches and written observations are still quoted, and many are applicable today. Using Stevenson as a benchmark it's easy to note how far "into the toilet" our domestic political parties have plunged, and continue to plunge, since the 1950s. Truly sad!

*- I haven't run into many engineers who are Latin scholars.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 1, 2014 | 12:31 a.m.

PS:

Let's test the extent of this engineer's Latin:

Boyibus kissi sweeti girlorum;
Girlibus likibus, wanti summorum.

Pater, fuaribus, entre parlorum;
Kicki puraribus exibus doorum.

Darkibus nitibus! No nus lamporum.
Climibus fencibus, brichibus torem.

How would we cope today if we were forced to do math using only Roman numerals? Try adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing numbers when they are expressed as Roman numerals - without first needing to convert them to base 10. Thank you, ancient Arabs, for inventing both Arabic numerals and the concept of zero (zed, nada).

(Report Comment)
David Rosman May 1, 2014 | 9:46 p.m.

Ellis - Interesting quotes but I have no idea what these have to do with the commentary?

By the way, I took Latin for three years in high school. I am still translating, but keep returning to Pig Latin.

Est enim vis vitae tellus.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 2, 2014 | 2:02 p.m.

There was no attempt on my part to stick with the subject; I'm curious as to where intellectuals have gone since Stevenson and the 1950s. They must be hiding out somewhere. Thought maybe you might know where. Have you seen any lately?

Res ipsa loquitur.

(Report Comment)

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