Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Conflict Managers (Wednesday LINKS)

There is an interesting line in Bob Woodward's Price of Politics where he notes that one's ability to succeed in politics depends a great deal on their ability to "keep their cool" when working with people you don't like or otherwise disagree with.  The interesting aspect of that comment is the presumption that politicians will be "working with" people that disagree with them.  In romanticizing epic stump speeches and invocations ("Ask not what your country..."), we ignore, if not discourage, the real purpose of politics - the management of conflict.

I pulled that definition from my college Political Science professor, Ernest Giglio.  We talk about "politics" often, but rarely take the time to define it.  Just "ahh, politics, don't ya love it."  Or "I hate politics."  And whatever definition you may prefer, it most likely will be insufficient. 

But the "management of conflict" seems to cover enough ground and almost appear optimistic.  Not the "encouragement of conflict" or the "production of conflict" -- management.  Like a 9-5er staring down a full inbox with a fresh cup of coffee in their hand.

I've been thinking about that definition, and Woodward's admonition, a lot recently.  In my own civic life, I've looked for opportunities to work with those that disagree with me to see if there is an opportunity for collaboration.  In a selfish way, it is also an opportunity for personal growth.

Most of our local politicos "get" this.  They see conflict and dive into the breach.  Certainly, others may characterize these actions as opportunism or hero fetishism, but what else do we expect of those we have deemed to be our leaders?  That's right, politicians are leaders.  It is their first and foremost responsibility.  This makes it all the more disappointing when they flop around in the mud.  "I can't follow you after that.  Let me get you a towel."

I've always said that my core evaluation for any putative elected official is their ability to be effective.  Strip off party affiliation.  Strip off ability to give a good speech.  Strip off whether or not I like the person.  Heck, you can ever disregard a number of their policy planks.

Can you keep your cool when working with people you don't like or otherwise disagree with to manage the conflicts that will be before you in office?  Because if you can't, everything else is a waste.

I hope you all will consider that evaluation when making your decisions on November 6.  Because if we don't, we're going to need more towels.


Speaking of managing conflict, I liked this piece about Council-member Courtney Watson and Senator Barbara Mikulski touring Main Street Ellicott City last week.  These folks have been through a lot recently and, for good or bad, are being walked through a new transition related to parking.  Change, as it is wont to do, has created conflict.  Rather than dismiss these concerns, it is good to see our leaders stepping into the breach.

Speaking of which, construction is underway to convert the 101 free parking spaces along Main Street to sensor-based metered parking.  The construction should be complete by the second week of November, but the meter program will not go into effect until January.  Doubt there will be a ribbon cutting for that day.

General Growth Properties has sold Harborplace to Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., a company that is "collecting unique commercial landmarks."  In other news, I have an idea for the new Bond super-villain.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow takes a retrospective look at what Wegman's has meant for Howard County after Mrs. HowChow comes to the sad realization that it may just be another "grocery store."  I have not been back since my anxiety-ridden experience over the second weekend after opening.  I'll probably be back (love those subs), but will keep my primary shopping local.

The Howard County blogging scene has had some attrition over the past month "Lost in Columbia" HoCo Matt is moving on to more cemented pastures as he considers a move to Baltimore City and Trevor's HoCoPolitico has experienced a take-over of sorts that may interfere with your review of past Board of Ed interviews. 

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!