Monday, September 22, 2008

Fran Alexander's Northwest Arkansas Times column explains reasons she supports Lioneld Jordan for mayor

CROSS CURRENTS : The real deal
Fran Alexander
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2008
What is the starting point ? Where do we begin our evaluations that lead to our perceptions ? Do we make judgment calls on people based on how they treat others or just on how they treat us in particular ? Are our opinions of candidates reached via their actions or decisions on issues, or do we rely on the gut response we have toward their personalities ? Do we take the time to figure out our own motives and behaviors before we choose others to represent our values ?

In sorting through my own assessments of Fayetteville’s mayoral choices, my checklist has stayed consistent with what I wrote in my April 21 article, “ And they’re off ! ” when there were only three runners in this race.

First and foremost, I want someone who bases his or her “ actions on an internally consistent framework of principles, ” the best definition of “ integrity” I’ve located so far. Next, from the experience side of the score care, I want someone who knows in his or her bones what it means to be on the citizens’ side of the City Council’s podium, asking questions or expressing heart and soul concern on an issue. I also want a candidate who has served on city committees or on the council, gaining not just experience in dealing with the public, but also a familiarity with how the city works or fails to work. Equally important, when candidates have served in some capacity, the rest of us have had a chance to get to know them from hearing them discuss, justify and vote their values. That’s what “ vetting” is all about.

Only two of the six candidates for the city’s top job have been active in city matters for years. If you don’t know incumbent mayor, Dan Coody, and Alderman Lioneld Jordan by now, you haven’t been paying attention to what goes on in City Hall and need to do some homework before you go vote.

Having traveled through a seemingly endless assortment of issues over almost eight years with my eyes on these guys, my support goes to Lioneld Jordan. The basic boiled-down reason is I know who he is. I know who he is now, who he has been for eight years, and who he will be in the future because of his “ internally consistent framework of principles. ”

If we disagree, Lioneld discusses our differences one-onone, but votes his conscience. A fellow I know here in town told me, “ I come from a corporate culture where a man was not judged by whether he made mistakes; he was judged by how he behaved after he made them. In my view, Lioneld would have done very well in that culture. ”

I’ve never known Lioneld to back-peddle, back-slide, or back-stab. Oh, he can get fed-up, fired-up, and want to bite nails in half at times, but you can always predict he’ll work his way through the rough spots using the same tools he always uses: determination, consistency, and responsibility. And, he apologizes if he thinks he got something wrong.

Jordan is also full of curiosity and always eager to learn, characteristics that have been very gratifying to me when we discuss environmental problems and protections. He extensively researches items that come before the City Council, which can entail reading volumes of documents. This means his decisions do not come from seat-of-the-pants guesswork or knee-jerk reflex.

Management of the University of Arkansas’ oldest and most-loved core buildings gives this candidate more of an on-the-ground knowledge of how to keep the nuts and bolts of physical infrastructure functioning than perhaps any other mayoral candidates we have seen in decades. His 120 hours of business management training, 80 hours of supervisory training, 1, 500 hours of apprentice schooling through the Department of Labor, and 20 hours of diversity coursework combined with his work experience have given him an educational foundation in managing both the structural and the human sides of problems. And, his long involvement with labor issues has provided him the real-life basics of dealing with a workforce. Using this background in his role in the political realm, he has been chair of the Street Committee for four years and spent seven years on the Water and Sewer and the Equipment committees, just three of the seven working groups on which he has served.

Jordan, if elected, wants to use his monthly Ward 4 gatherings as a pattern for town hall meetings for each ward in the city, taking government to the people in their part of town at least three or four times per year. One of his supporters told me, “ He wants to make sure that no one is missed, that everyone has a chance, no matter what side of the tracks they are from. Everything else will flow from there. I love the idea of the town hall meetings, and I know Lioneld will follow through with them. ”

Outside city business, Lioneld reads for pleasure, especially history and literature. When he quotes Emerson, Roosevelt and Eugene O’Neill, his favorite playwright, to make a point, you get the impression that he’s not just been reading comics in his spare moments. He does, however, take the time to delve deeply into the joys of Razorback devotion.

Probably the most telling attribute about Jordan’s character and seriousness about his role in city government is a little something not many people know. One evening after a council meeting was over, I saw him pick up a dollar bill from his desk and put it in his wallet. I teased him that being alderman did not pay very well. He laughed and agreed, but then added that he tries to remember to put a dollar in his view during council meetings to remind him of Truman’s motto, “ The Buck Stops Here. “

If the voters truly want to be able to trust their representatives, then Lioneld Jordan is the real deal. The experience that citizens have had with him is “ experience you can trust. ”

Fran Alexander is a local resident and an active environmentalist.

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