TO A NEW MAYOR:
1. If the people had expected you to be
infallible they would have made you Pope. They only elected you
mayor. It's not a question of whether you'll make mistakes but
how you make them and what you do afterwards. Correct them promptly
and don't be too proud to admit that your administration involves
trial and error. Humility is a rare but endearing quality in
2. You probably think you have a mandate.
Maybe you do, but it is a safer premise to regard yourself as
3. You promised leadership during the campaign
but remember that the people want to lead too. Leadership involves
listening to them as well as telling them.
4. Small plans lead to small disasters;
big plans lead to big disasters. No big plan has saved this city
yet; lots of small plans have helped.
5. You have more employees than many towns
have citizens. Your government is a town in itself and will act
like one. You will have to choose from time to time between the
town that works for you and the one that elected you. It isn't
easy but it may help to keep in mind that the former wouldn't
be there without the latter .
6. Beware of experts. The people can show
you how. They remember how many times the experts have been wrong
and they have been right.
7. Let your promises lag slightly behind
people's expectations and they will have many pleasant surprises.
A promise is like a hand grenade. If it's not tossed at its mark
soon enough it will blow up in your face.
8. At first, the press will treat you like
an emperor. But they soon tire of that and will claim that you
are walking around with no clothes on simply because your suit
is a little tattered. Let people see for themselves how you are
dressed. Remember that most voters do not come to city hall.
You will have to go out and find them just as you did during
the campaign. When you find them, remember that they want not
so much to believe what you are saying as for you to believe
what they are saying.
9. Reporters are always a pain, but they
will become a scourge if your anger and frustration with them
rises to the surface.
10. Some of your advisers will fail you.
Move them gently but quickly out of the way.
11. A mistake admitted is soon forgotten;
a mistake concealed can provide news copy for days.
12. Don't be shocked or angered when your
friends criticize you. They are full of unreasonable expectations,
which you created. If you can't do something their way, tell
them why directly and simply. No one really expects politicians
not to make compromises - unless you pretend you don't.
13. If, after discussing a problem with
your political aides, your bureaucratic advisers, your consultants
and per-diem experts, you still can't decide what to do, try
a daring experiment: ask the people. They should be allowed to
make mistakes, too. Besides, sharing power also allows you to
share the blame.
14. Successful campaigning involves decentralized
decisions and precinct-level leadership. City government, if
it is successful, involves the same things. If neighborhoods
were smart enough to elect you, they may also be smart enough
to help you run the city, especially when decisions affect them
most of all.
15. Be considerate enough of your successors
not to leave them with too many problems. It is easy, and politically
expedient, to create plans that won't fail until you are safely
out of office. Avoid the temptation.
16. Conversely, be considerate enough of
your successors to leave them with improvements they won't have
to worry about. You can't get credit for everything. Remember
that a fifty-year-old tree still takes fifty fiscal years in
which to grow. Plant it anyway.
17. Don't forget the small things. You
are not only mayor of a major city but its head janitor and recreation
director. You may not be able to bring substantial progress in
every area but you can make the wait more pleasant, more fun
and more attractive. Establish an Office of Amenities, Trivia
and Fun and charge it with finding things people can do, rather
than, in the manner of most government agencies, what they can't.
18. Buildings should be determined by the
people and not vice versa. If you must plan, make sure your plans
are incomplete so the people using them can influence them. Most
city planners want to homogenize a town and let their structures
order culture. This is the antithesis of what a city should be
about. The success of a city is not determined by the logic of
its design but by the multiplicity of its opportunities.
19. Avoid using "impact" as a
verb. Don't use "decision-making process," "viable,"
or "ongoing" at all and remember that communities and
people want power, not "input."
20. Never forget the Andrews Sisters song,
"Don't Worry About Strangers; Keep Your Eye on Your Best
Friend.' No mayor ever went to jail for what his enemies did.
COPYRIGHT 1978 DC GAZETTE