As I sat in the audience of the March Pre-Council Meeting on Tuesday, March 10, I had an epiphany of sorts. It dawned on me that many in our current council operate from what is called a “reactionary leadership style.” Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and value the commitment each and every member of our current council has made in the service of our community. They are each to be commended for their willingness to serve our community. However, all the goodwill and selflessness in the world is powerless to save anyone from an inability to lead with vision and clarity.
During this past Tuesday’s meeting, I quietly listened for more than two hours as our council went back and forth over matters such as an outdoor smoking ban in all of Bellevue’s public parks, finding money to afford “high end” laptops for each council member, and a proposal to double the cost to park along the business district. As worthwhile as these issues may be, it greatly concerns me that in those two hours our borough’s leadership couldn’t find the time to squeeze in talk of a cohesive vision to promote community health, growth, and prosperity.Debates concerning banning outdoor smoking in our public parks, investing in high end laptops, and doubling the cost to park in our business district are, in reality, debates surrounding symptoms of what ails our community, not the actual root of the problem. Our community has no cohesive vision and we are floundering in an endless abyss of stagnation while communities around us blossom by taking part in Pittsburgh’s well documented metropolitan renaissance.
If Bellevue had a clear and concise vision for community health, the families and individuals who lived here would naturally police our parks. Parents with young children would keep individuals from puffing second hand smoke into their children’s lungs. Instead, as Councilwoman Tenant-Heffley correctly pointed out, we’re asking the police to enforce yet another unenforceable law and use the power of our local government to act as our proverbial nanny!
If Bellevue had a clear and concise vision for community growth, there wouldn’t even need to be a debate on how to find the funding for nice little perks like fancy computer systems for each member of council as the tax rolls would be bursting from the seams. Instead, just a few months ago, our own mayor was proposing an increase to our property taxes to cover the basic necessities and now they seem to want the perks that come with a surplus!
If Bellevue had a clear and concise vision for community prosperity, there wouldn’t be a need to forcibly take even more cash from the few who spend time in our business district because there’d be so many bustling retailers, restaurants, and cafes in our business district folks would be freely spending their hard earned money here, organically increasing our tax revenue. Instead, members of council asked, “Do you think those who shop here will stop coming because it costs them an extra quarter to park?” Probably not. But then again, why aren’t we looking to add to those who shop here instead of giving them additional reason to go else where?
It’s time we start thinking and strategizing from a long term, visionary perspective rather than simply reacting to each of Bellevue’s many symptoms of a stagnant community.
Candidate for Council in Bellevue’s Third Ward