Neosho politics is never routine, but the past few weeks or so have been rather busy. Busy can be fun if the work is productive.
Unfortunately, the current “busy” has seemed to have a higher-than-normal level of distraction. And some are now raising questions as to whether or not the city can “function” with distraction. The answer is simple: We have, we are, and we will. Distractions are not the priority — doing the job is.
Distractions are also interesting to look at from a political perspective. I found numerous examples of how distractions are used as a political tool at all levels (by both sides) when people believe it can be beneficial to their agenda. The New York Times even wrote an article on such distractions in 2009 called “The Art of Political Distraction.” It does give some interesting commentary on how they can work to change the focus of attention.
Unfortunately, not all distractions are really what they appear. Some are real and happen spontaneously. But others, to use the words of the New York Times, are “manufactured” to throw a wrench into the agenda of others. Depending on if the issue “sticks,” that can certainly happen. Distractions can also take on a number of forms. Some are negative distractions during good times like allegations of misconduct when a politician is popular. Others can be positive distractions when times are bad such as recognition awards and ice cream socials when a politician is viewed in a negative light. They are both designed to do the same thing — change the focus of attention.
For Neosho, regardless of the type of distraction, we’ve proven over and over that the city is robust and that our form of city government can operate in a variety of conditions. Within months of coming on the council, I found that our city was out of money and past spending wasn’t done according to state law. Our city manager was soon charged with misconduct. There was a lot of focus on our town and our actions. For us, that focus was a distraction – but it was real. We worked to fix the things that allowed that misconduct to happen and moved on.
With that misconduct also came the collapse of our city’s finances. We cut city staff and impacted dozens of lives. We had a weakened police presence and employee morale hit bottom. The naysayers criticized our decisions, took out ads in the paper and the council was sued by the former city manager. But through it all (including the distractions), the city’s recovery plan was developed, approved, and implemented. Almost half a decade later, we’re seeing the tremendous changes that came from those decisions and how they have made our town stronger and better than we’ve been in a very long time.
We now have some “new” issues before us. They’ve been played out in the paper and on TVs across the area. For a few days, our city was once again the focus of many people in the area. Some are now asking “How can the city function with all of this distraction?” Well, you can look no further than our last council meeting. We met. We conducted business. We voted on bills. We approved the items that required our action and we adjourned. Our city is still functioning. Our council is still functioning. And the employees empowered to deal with our town’s daily needs continue to do their job — just like they have for the 5 ½ years I’ve served on your council.
There are certainly important issues that have been raised and I am confident those issues will get the attention they deserve. Some can by handled by the council. Some may move to other venues for a fair and impartial review. Luckily, our nation is one of laws and we have a system to verify if those laws have been followed. As with past issues, I am very confident each allegation will be reviewed and dealt with — I expect nothing less.
I’ll end with telling you that my commitment to making Neosho better has never been stronger. My approach to governance and the principles I held when I was first elected have not changed. Some may be unhappy with the decisions we have made. Given that, some will likely continue their efforts to discount our gains and change our city back to the old ways of doing business in Neosho. That’s not something I want to see happen. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and where Neosho is headed. In my view, Neosho is on the right path for our future and I’ll continue to do my part to keep it that way – regardless of the distractions.
Until next time: stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.