So how do we continue to serve our community during these challenging times? This month we continue this dialog with the VLMGA “M = enhance our Management capabilities within our Council-Manager structure” and “G = insisting on strong Governance with equity, equality and ethics in all public safety, public health and public services” as informed by the ICMA Code of Ethics (adopted 1924, updated 2020), specifically one tenet to consider this month:
Tenet 9. Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between the citizens and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service. *
As we explore this tenet, let’s again connect with the Declaration of Ideals (adopted in the early 1980s, Public Management article, August 2020, https://icma.org/declaration-ideals ) as still relevant to today’s society, culture and community challenges. Of the eleven ideals two resonated with me this month as aligned with the above tenet:
Ideal 3. Respect the special character and individuality of each community while recognizing the interdependence of communities and promoting coordination and cooperation.
Ideal 7. Develop a responsive, dynamic local government organization that continuously assesses its purpose and seeks the most effective techniques and technologies for serving the community.
Now let’s continue to translate these tenets and ideals into the intersection of our professional and personal roles. As a few examples, have you committed and followed through on actions such as:
- Ensured two-way community engagement venues with our community stakeholders; continue thinking out of the box to reinvent past methods in response to the changed environment necessitated by the pandemic health response?;
- Delivered regular key topical messaging through various tools even though in-person options are reduced, i.e. PEG broadcast channels, videos, e-newsletters, virtual public hearings with call in comment periods?;
- Implemented a program for high school students to serve as non-voting yet active liaisons to Council Boards and Commissions? Committed to educating Pre-K to 6th grade residents on the value of local government services?;
- Restructured service counters to maximize online options complimented by safe in-person when required? Conducting virtual live building safety inspections?;
- Implemented a robust telework program, acquired needed software and infrastructure to execute, and trained staff on electronic tools to maximize ability to still interact via video in lieu of in-person and facilitate quality program delivery?; and
- Continued professional development and mental health support commitment to yourself and staff through virtual tools but also creative, interactive and two-way dialog methods?
As we considered over the last few months we can achieve “yes” to all the above questions and so many more! VLMGA members are doing just that and with intentionality on the “A= Action to encourage communication between all stakeholders of all ages as well as we creating local governments that continuously assesses our purpose and the most effective community services.
As the U.S. honors the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s decades of public service two of her quotes came to mind as relevant to the ethical and ideal focus of this article:
- “As we live, we can learn. It’s important to listen” (Interview with Irin Carmon, The Rachel Maddow Show, February 16, 2015)
- “I think the Framers were intending to create a more perfect union that would become ever more perfect over time” (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Confirmation Hearings, July 20-23, 1993)
Let’s continue doing our part in building up our communities.
There are many options available to achieve our profession’s ideals and execute on the tenets. Check out additional eNews articles as well as these resources:
- Review ICMA’s UNITE conference sessions on such topics as ethics, antiracism, financial and environmental resiliency, as well as leadership;
- Educate our youngest residents on the value of local government services by sharing ICMA’s coloring book in your community and schools;
- Community Conversations eNews article- check out the second article presented by Jenny Carroll, Mary Riley Styles Library Director on virtual community panel discussions;
- Participate in the October DAO meeting focusing on “Leadership with an Inclusionary Vision”;
- Utilize resources on VLGMA Civic Engagement Best Practice website page and share your best practices in the upcoming survey update; and
- Utilize ICMA Ethics Staff for members to confidentially discuss any questions about our ethical obligations.
VLGMA, as agreed to by your Officers and Executive Board, is pleased to coordinate with Regent University on an ethics research survey for how local government professionals form ethical decisions. VLGMA will receive the analytical report and have an opportunity to discuss the results at a future conference but the research outcome will be the University’s and not endorsed by VLGMA. A brief optional survey will be distributed soon and I hope you will able to plan for the 20-25 minutes to complete.
Welcome to our newest VLGMA members Shalom Black, Human Services Project Manager, County of Loudoun; Chad Monday, Student, Liberty University; Monica Spells, Assistant County Administrator, County of Loudoun; Matthew Spuck, Town Manager, Town of Onancock and Elizabeth Via-Gossman, Assistant City Manager, City of Manassas.
Stay safe, healthy and remain strong, Cindy