Attitudes shape police

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

As one who has tickled a few raw nerves downtown, I would like to describe an issue that should be a high priority for our new Mayor and the City Council in their new session.

Delegate Chris Jones recently spoke of public service and the submission to the needs of the people as the highest priority.

There also was discussion by our local leaders, about holding themselves to these high standards in the pursuit of the people’s business.

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The actual statements that were made resolved that there would be less &uot;I&uot; and more &uot;Us&uot; in local public service.

As one of &uot;unwashed-Us,&uot; I would suggest the following, which applies directly to our Senior City Hall/Staff culture. While there are several examples that could be related concerning how our Senior City Staff performs their many pubic chores, I would distill this directly into the attitude they exhibit toward, &uot;Us.&uot;

At times there is just an undercurrent of arrogance, yet at other times it rises to outright visible contempt.

While this issue may not be easy to describe in detail, most of &uot;Us&uot; know it when we see it.

There are many of you that have firsthand examples of this and could relate a full understanding of this growing and disturbing trend.

My hope is that by describing it here, there might be some chance of changing and correcting it, before the &uot;Us&uot; have to show-up with torches and pitchforks at City Hall.

To be blunt, the attitude I intend to describe is one you most likely have witnessed many times around the City of Suffolk.

It has become ingrained into the culture of our Senior City Staff, but is most evident at the highest levels.

While it is not my intent to portray all Suffolk staff in such a light, I believe such attitudes are too common and are broadening in both function and scope. We can see it in the many lawsuits that are brought against our city each year for stubborn-headed city policies and positions.

When the only redress the citizens have for such unacceptable actions by the City/Staff is to seek the protection of the courts, we have a problem.

Too often we see inept and uninformed advice from senior staff, that leads the City into conflict with the citizens and into court again and again.

It is my considered opinion that this will not change soon.

One of the many examples I could conjure of this issue, is one where Senior City Staff provided a presentation to City Council; concerning three public hearings held for the 2025 Comprehensive Plan.

It was a strong presentation, quite obviously authoritative in nature where our senior city staff had signed off on a particular line of thinking, without much if any factual basis.

Wide ranging statements were made that indicated the staff had garnered a complete and full understanding of what the &uot;people&uot; wanted, concerning growth controls and future development of our city.

This presentation was one of the most bizarre efforts I have ever witnessed; yet clearly was driven by a very specific agenda.

With less than a spattering of citizen input, our senior city staff was ready to proclaim knowledge of what we all wanted.

Another example is the recent court ruling and significant city back peddling, where a businessman applied for a business license to open an adult entertainment store.

While others and I might not wish to support his business efforts, the City/Staff was dead wrong to run this issue into the courts and they should have known better.

These and many other examples directly highlight the fact that we need valid advice from senior staff, rather than attitude.

We need thoughtful leadership, which is keyed to the interest and needs of the citizens, rather than an agenda of indifferent government control by fiat.

The good old days of &uot;Government by frustration&uot; must end.

We can’t afford it, nor should we tolerate it anymore.

We pay professional wages and we need professional conduct.

In addition to this broad observation, there are very mean spirited attitudes directed toward anyone that does not agree with the established view of things downtown.

It reminds me of the play-ground-bully when I was five years old.

These bullies however, can arbitrarily deny your property rights, interfere with your business, and just make your life miserable. Citizens and groups of means can and will challenge the bully more often, and as a result, we will continue to waste public resources that could be used for more productive uses.

We must establish as our highest priority, a firm and well-articulated code of conduct for our senior city leaders, to guide their conduct.

We need the highest of ethical standards and conduct, with a pragmatic city staff culture that places a much higher premium on the needs of the citizens rather than inflated egos.

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman. His column appears on Tuesdays. He can be reached at