On February 19th, 2019 I attended a rally sponsored by mayoral candidate Scott Conger and I immediately felt like a pawn. As I stand there watching fellow citizens waltz through the door with a hungry stomach I realized how cliché these rallies can be. I’ve attended quite a few of these candidate rallies and they all have that one thing in common, free food. I began to think, “why is there always an abundance of food provided if the sole reason of the gathering was to learn about this candidate?” Then it hit me, people are at their happiest after a good meal and whatever he said wouldn’t matter because most people would leave with the intention of giving them his vote. This raised the question, are these types of rallies just a cheap way to boost votes without actually connecting to the citizens?
So I decided to stay and see just what Mr. Congers plans were for the city. After about an hour he arrived and shook a few hands before he took the platform. Again, there wasn’t much effort in reaching out personally. Just a few smiling handshakes and “how are you” introductions. There was plenty of time to actually spend face to face time with the people and possibly ask what the city could do better?
Mr. Conger then took the platform and began his artificial “plans for the city” speech. The speech wasn’t very long and he hit just three major points. Those points being better communication, more efficient government, and more transparency. This rivals just how clichè was in the beginning. He then just barely touched on each major point.
Mr. Conger said his plan for a more efficient government was to convert the city to outcome based budgeting. There wasn’t any explanation as to what that was and I had to do my own research. Outcome based budgeting is the process of listing projects and departments from most to least important. Then, go down the list and split the budget until it runs dry.
In all honesty this is actually a great idea. The issue was the lack of explanation and expectation citizens would accept it. He could have easily explained the difference between this idea and the current budget process Jackson uses. If the idea of these rallies is to connect those with the candidate, shouldn’t they know every detail of your plan?
Also, the point could have been made to recognize how well outcome based budgeting worked for the city of Baltimore. The argument that this was a cheap way to boost votes strengths.
Communication & Transparency
Mr. Conger briefly stated that he would like to hire a “chief communications officer” to increase the cities social media presence. What does this mean? What kind of presence will the city have on social media? How does that help us? Social media has quickly become the largest and best way to communicate between each other but without details it makes you wonder if there is an actual plan.
Lastly, he touched on the idea to bring “normal” people in to be a part of government boards. Yet again without details on how that would work. Of course, to many that sounded like a great idea. The best way to represent the average citizen is to put them on decision making boards, right? I’m not sure how that would work nor how these folks would even be chosen. I won’t say that bringing in citizens to consult on ideas to determine how well the community would accept them is a bad idea, but to actually make the decisions. If that was what he meant by this idea, I’m not sure if the average person is fit to sit on the budget board where an economic expert would usually sit.
All of these ideas sound great, but lack of explanation on how they would be achieved should be perceived worrisome. Anyone can think of great ideas but what matters is the plan to place them into actions.
After the speech, he shook a few hands and left. I sit there pondering if this was really the whole event. I showed up expecting to learn whether or not I should use my vote on Mr. Conger but I was left feeling empty. The foundation of this rally was the buffet up front when in reality it was supposed to be our potential mayor.
This was the event that flipped the switch for me, I sat there and thought about all the other political rallies I have attended. They were all basically structured the same. Fill the citizens up with free food, shake a few hands, mention a few good empty ideas, and then leave.
Judging by the faces of those surrounding me as they left, these people were satisfied. They were fed and told what they wanted to hear. Most of those people already made up their mind in a full, euphoric state and they found who they will spend their vote on.
The entire event truly felt as an easy way to boost votes without too much effort. Could food really be an easy way to gain votes of the average person? Judging by the faces of the folks I observed, yes.
*Photo by Tennessee Small Business Development Center