A little over a week ago, I participated in helping middle school students at the Beverly Hills Boys & Girls Club build birdhouses with the Citrus Construction Academy, an organization that I’ve served with since its inception as a nonprofit in 2017.
Participated might be too strong of a word. My role may have been closer to the reality of my favorite joke when it comes to group work.
“There’s a division of responsibility,” I will inevitably end up telling anyone who will listen. “They do the work. I take the credit.”
The truth is that I’m not much help with the actual construction side of the work, but do my best to answer questions when asked and lend a hand in cleaning up.
The birdhouses the kids created under the watchful eye of our more handy volunteers as well as some quick learning B&G Club employees were truly an amazing product, and I think everyone involved would agree the kids deserve all the credit for that.
But what happens when the credit isn’t as easily discerned but equally as desired? That requires a little deeper critical analysis.
In Tuesday’s special meeting regarding universal garbage collection, the Commission voted 5-0 against enacting the plan, each with a reason why the current iteration of the idea wasn’t right for Citrus. Applause erupted after from a crowd of about 75 people who had shown up to speak against the measure.
Should the Commissioners get the credit for stopping the program before a bid was awarded or was it the resounding voice of persuasive people whose voices were heard in the room? While a couple of Commissioners cited talking to members of the public in how they arrived at their decision, a voting majority of the Board had different reasons.
Some categories need to be established to help answer who is victorious in the outcome. The first is who deserves the credit, the next is who wants the credit and the third is who gets credit in reality. Each of these three is a little bit different.
I’ll nominate one person and one business entity as the reason for most deserving of ending the process.
The person is County Administrator Randy Oliver who had asked in October that Tuesday’s meeting be changed from a workshop that doesn’t allow voting to a special meeting that does. Had the Commission not had the pressure of making a decision, the conversation would have kept going and more information could have been ascertained which leads us to the business entity that deserves credit for ending this idea.
Waste Pro undercut the market with their bid proposal. Their ability to provide recycling and yard waste pick up was substantially (also could be read “suspiciously”) lower than the other two bids. Instead of asking why, the discrepancy became easier to address if the entire idea was abandoned.
The Commissioners will want the credit for defeating the proposal whether this is because it was the right idea but the wrong time or because they are against the idea philosophically. This is understandable as it does come down to their decision.
The involved public also wants the credit though. Some newsletters circulating that tout victory are already evidence of this. I will take an editorial moment to pause here and interject that while the Concurrent advocated against this issue on Sunday, we don’t want credit. A handful of Commissioners read the Concurrent but we don’t stake claim to that kind of influence.
The last category is who gets credit in reality. I’m giving it to the process.
If each side concedes a bit of credit, the community unification that many talk about needing more of is evident here. The Commission collected information, opened that information up to the public, the newspaper reported the information not just as a story but including the public information documents of the bids (good job, Chronicle) and a passionate public got involved via letters to the editor and audience participation. It was the best of how the idea of American governance in action should work.
It’s easy to focus on the outcome rather than the process. With a singular focus on the result though, tension over who deserves credit lingers.
Let’s instead set aside the need for seeing it as a win for one side and a loss for the other in favor of appreciating an example of when the county governance works like it should.