Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Merriam.
Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item four:
People who run for elected office often have strong views about how things ought to be — views that may differ sharply from their colleagues on the city council. What steps would you take to ensure that you have positive, productive relationships with council peers who may have different views than your own?
City Council Ward 1
Jason Silvers (incumbent)
I believe a diverse city council consisting of people with differing views is a must. And having different views doesn’t automatically mean people can’t be civil, respectful, or cooperative even when those views don’t exactly line up. But the important point to remember is, we are not on the council to push our own individual views or agendas, but rather, to fulfill the needs and desires of those we represent. If the council is able to listen to the residents, as a whole, it shouldn’t be difficult to have positive, productive relationships.
Did not respond.
City Council Ward 2
Successful teamwork is a requirement of my day job as a Senior Project Manager, and every team has a variety of personalities. To create and maintain constructive relationships, I practice these habits:
- Empathy. I have the emotional capacity to imagine myself in someone else’s situation, and accept their feelings, ideas and opinions as their truth – even if I don’t feel the same way. This opens me up to different perspectives while acknowledging and validating the mindset and motivations of others. If you’re actually listening, you’re considering this information when you make decisions.
- Don’t take it personally. This comes from a book called “The Four Agreements.” As long as I’m doing my best and being impeccable with my word, I won’t carry the weight and guilt of someone else’s anger. Practicing this has made conflict resolution and moving forward far more productive for me, and I’ll keep practicing this on the council.
- I can’t change people. The only thing I can control is my reaction to what happens around me. When I find myself in opposition with a colleague, I take a moment to consider how my reaction can help us find mutual ground. Referring back to empathy, if someone doesn’t want to do the same, I can’t change that about them. I just try to meet them where they’re at.
- Own up. If I misstep, I need to acknowledge it. Here’s an opportunity to do that: At a recently council meeting, I misspoke when citing statistics about local rainfall totals. I mixed up the “water year” total and the 2019 total. Here’s my Twitter thread with the National Weather Service where I asked for that information. Elected officials are humans, too; and the concept that we’re perfect is not a realistic standard.
Public service is not a job for the selfish, so we need to leave our personal agendas at the door and focus on what is best for the citizens of Merriam.
I believe a few current council members also want what’s the best for the city. We should research all sides of issues before reaching decisions and ask for input from subject matter experts in addition to the city hall staff. We need some diversity on the council, not the group-think, rubber-stamping of whatever staff wants done. Disagreement is not bad, it is essential to collaboration and good outcomes.
City Council Ward 3
We should always celebrate diversity, including diverse views and options. Multiple views can be healthy and make for better decision making. “Playing well with others” is something that I have always been pretty good at. Through my 40 year career with Hallmark Cards I have successfully dealt with people who have different views than mine. We always got the job done and usually we ended up friends or at least friendly.
Positive, productive relationships are based on listening, understanding, respecting and compromising. Politicians don’t use the word “compromise” very much anymore, especially while campaigning. “I’ll fight for you” typically gets more votes than, “I’ll compromise for you.” When our elected officials ‘fight’, they are just doing what WE elected them to do. So here are my campaign promises: I will ‘listen’ for (and to) you. I will do my best to be ‘understanding’ and ‘respectful’ for (and to) you. And, when necessary, I will ‘compromise’ for you. Bottom line, I will get the job done for you.
The steps I would take to ensure positive and productive relationships with other staff and council members is, 1) listen unbiasedly. It is important to hear each and every detail as to how or why someone may have the opinion that they do. 2) remember that each and every one of us have our own communication styles and we each have something to bring to the table. Every possible solution needs to be visited and revisited with open minds and truth. 3) We need to find effective communication styles to assist us in reaching our constituents. They deserve to be informed and not being left feeling as if they have been blindsided by city projects and issues.
City Council Ward 4
Bob Pape (incumbent)
You have to develop a personal relationship with each of your council peers. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and just because someone disagrees with you, it does not mean that they are wrong. You can’t take it personal when someone votes differently than you. It’s about keeping communication positive. It is important that you do not belittle someone based on what view they have taken. It really gets interesting when you vote a certain way because you are representing your constituents, even though your personal opinion might be different. Therefore, it is possible to both agree on an issue, but end of voting differently based on our interpretation of our constituent’s desires.
We are currently experiencing tumultuous times in the National political arena. We can not let ourselves get caught up in this type of behavior on a local level. We are non-partisan at the local level and we are fortunate to agree on the best solution to issues over 90% of the time. I do not ask what party affiliation my Council peers belong too. However, some have told me and even though we are not registered with the same party, we are good friends. We almost always have the same opinion concerning issues facing Merriam. The bottom line is to have respect for each other and to value their opinion and friendship. You don’t have to agree on every decision. In fact, good communication, dialogue and differing opinions will always lead to a better outcome.
In my professional career as a designer and project manager for the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to work with many different colleagues and clients from many different walks of life and differing points of view. In those 10 years I have also served on many boards and committees with nonprofits, design organizations and the City of Merriam whose sole purpose is to bring together people from varying backgrounds and experience levels. Throughout these experiences there has been a common theme – everyone wants to be heard and should be allowed their time to express their viewpoint. I believe that in federal and state politics it has become the norm to put down your peers just for simply having a differing idea or viewpoint than you – at the local level this shouldn’t be just about our own viewpoints, but it should be about what our constituents want and we are to be their voice.
If I am elected, I will make sure that I am listening to my constituents to make sure what they want is being represented and also hold my councilmember peers to the same standards and make sure they aren’t just pushing their own agendas.
Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item five:
What’s the top thing you’d like to be able to say about the city of Merriam four years from today that you can’t say now? Why?