The Institute for Local Government, sponsored in part by the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), defines its organizational goal as assisting local leaders to govern in certain ways. We can restate and refine their stated goals in detail to define the mission of local government.
The mission of local government is to foster and sustain a safe, healthy, enriching and enjoyable community by working collaboratively, governing openly, effectively and ethically.
Those 25 words cover it all. Whether the county or one of the cities is installing a massive water project or merely considering weed abatement, if local government would dedicate itself to those principles governing would be both easier and better, but easier is still not easy and better is still not perfect.
In many cases, today’s decisions are based on our estimates of tomorrow’s needs, but that’s all they are – estimates. No one can predict the future, they can only learn from the past and prepare well to improve their chances of success.
Unfortunately, it is in preparation and fundamentals that local governments often have their most significant failures. The workload is usually driven by today’s crowded schedule, rarely by thoughts of tomorrow’s needs or standards of performance.
It’s up to the citizens to challenge their local government leaders and executive staff by applying the mission statement in question form to their work product. Does this decision and implementation foster and sustain a safe, healthy, enriching and enjoyable community and are you working collaboratively, governing openly, effectively and ethically?
The quality of governance is inherent in the definition of local government mission and that judgment lies with the electorate. Do not accept platitudes and excuses for answers, set your standards high and challenge elected leaders and executive staff to meet those standards. We do not just want work, we want good work. After all, the conditions under which we live have a major influence on our entire lives.
You do not get the quality of government you deserve, you get the quality of government you’re willing to accept.