Now I have been invited by politicians before, to hear about faith based initiatives, community problems etc. Most politicians don't listen in large meetings, they usually deliver their strategy as a way of engaging community leaders and I imagine they hope to get political backing for their ideas. I was therefore wary of getting my hopes up of having a real discussion about things. We did have some time for input, some questions were asked and some input was given. I was still glad it was happening.
I am encouraged by our new Mayor. Most of all I am excited because he has hired some good people. Now, I imagine previous mayors have hired good people before, it is just that I didn't know too many of them or much about them. This mayor seems to be on a deliberate campaign to hire exceptionally smart and talented people, with a record of good performance, and many happen to be Evangelical Christians and several were members of my own congregation. I am also encouraged because I think this mayor is seeking good ideas, and at least at the start is attempting to establish good government. He believes, as I do, that good government can make a positive difference, and he also believes that it should be done as economically constrained as possible. I liked it when he referred to the rate of taxation as a "burden."
A city is blessed when it has good leaders, and not just the man at the top, but the team of people they recruit to administrate, lead, and execute what we all hope is a good agenda and philosophy of government. Good people aren't just talented people, Lord knows we have enough of them in prison, and some we wish were in prison. When I refer to the Mayor hiring "good people" I mean that they are talented, but they are also people of good character, and they are people of good will. These folk intend to do good, and they intend to be good while they are doing it, and they intend to do things in a good way. Being nice while doing good doesn't hurt either. The phrase, "nice guys finish last" is a quote from the cynical who think being nice is a synonym for being a chump and a sucker. Actually most of the successful people I know happen to be nice, and maybe that has something to do with their success.
Every city has problems, and every level of government has perplexing challenges. While confronting those challenges, every political leader is surrounded by the electorate, who serve as critics, complainers, condemners, cheer leaders, influencers, beggars, demanders, etc. depending on the issue and their mood at the moment. I think it is important for us to pray and hope for every leaders success, even if we don't agree with all their policies and agendas. We might dislike, even oppose, certain policies according to our conscience and I think that is fair. However, to hope for the failure of a government or a leader I think is not only Biblically disobedient but also stupid. It is stupid because it is self-destructive. If one party says, "our only agenda is the defeat of this leader in the next election" then I think they have forfeited the right to serve in government, they should never be re-elected. Not that I don't think there should be a loyal opposition, nor do I think there aren't some incumbents we would wish out of office from time to time. That is different from not trying to make the best deal out of what elected leaders give us or propose, while we resist those ideas which are unjust, evil, bad, or dumb. If they succeed in anything that is good then that success belongs to all of us. If we see their success in anything as simply an endorsement of their party or candidate then I think we fail to see the nature of our cooperative society, and we are simply saboteurs. In this case folks have put party over country.
So, I have some ideas to offer, and maybe you have some you could add, and I hope they are good. Ideas usually have to be discussed, and shaped and criticized, before they can be implemented. I certainly hope the things I mentioned can be improved upon.
1. We need a public, private, and faith based partnership strategy for summer youth employment. We need the city to identify work that needs to be done that would improve our city, then we need to recruit teens and young adults, put them into teams with a mentor/foreman, give them the training and tools that need to be done, and pay them even the minimum wage. If the city has any funds for these improvements that can go into the employment fund, more funds should be solicited from corporate and private donors, and faith based organizations (even churches) can supply mentor/foreman support for the work teams.
a. Railroad right of ways that are no longer used can be trimmed and made into public use trails and jogging paths.
b. Widows and elderly who need summer yard care or house painting, or even house cleaning.
c. Local forest clearing and trail restoration and improvement.
d. Landscaping and beautification of intersections and public spaces.
e. Tuck pointing for the elderly (on their brick home, not their bodies) or public buildings.
f. City and downtown hosts who welcome tourists and hand out information.
2. We need a public, private, and faith based partnership for charter schools. Whereby public money can be used, supplemented with private funds, and chapel and religious courses can be held prior to school day and classes taught by teachers paid by public funds:
a. Action Academy where everything is built on activity.
b. Physical participation required in hiking and knowing all our trails.
c. Knowing the names of all trees and fauna (Latin names included), all the birds, all the animals.
d. Knowing how to swim or drown proof.
e. Knowing how to camp, wilderness survival, orienteering.
f. Knowing tools, automotive, aeronautics, .
g. All activities with a math and reading component.
h. Gender segregated, at least in middle school.
3. Public, private, faith based partnership in creating environmentally friendly church properties. With some of the largest roofs and parking lots these spaces are heat generators and potential energy makers. Most churches can't afford to make solar panels for their roofs, but could be leveraged into it with some outside financial help. Better pavements for parking lots that are less heat generating. Energy generation can be sold back to the city or Electric Power Board. More water run off planning for church parking lots would be helpful. Separation of church and state is fine, but can't we do some things together that are mutually helpful since we all breathe the same air and collectively use up our resources?
4. Comprehensive effort to help every teen age mom learn to read to her children. Reading mentors can be hired, children's books can be purchased and distributed. The first three years of the child's life are crucial for later learning. The whole city needs to deal with this as this will affect our schools over the lifetime of that child's education.
Well, that's a few. Give us some more.