Wednesday Jul 11 2012
David Gordon cares about his community
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
David Gordon speaks at every City Council meeting. Often, the meetings have only a few audience members. Gordon, 89, is not an elected official. Serving on the Lincoln Library advisory board and library advisory committee, Gordon is just an interested community member. The Lincoln resident of 12 years will sometimes scold City Councilmen or praise city staff during the meeting?s public comment portion. Gordon will also ask questions later in the meeting about agenda items that spark his interest. During the June 26 City Council meeting, Gordon spoke after Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep told councilmen that leaving the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) could cost the city between $60 and $80 million. Following Estep?s report and council?s ensuing discussion, the councilmen told city staff to ?receive and file? date received from CalPERS about terminating the city?s contract with the agency. Gordon immediately gave council his opinion. ?I understand the rock and the hard place with the CalPERS and so forth. But as a citizen sitting in the audience, I believe it?s important that the audience is maybe qu antum steps ahead of me in understanding the severity of the problem,? Gordon told the councilmen. ?The core concern I have, you gentlemen on the dais are so knowledgeable; city council staff and attorney are knowledgeable but I don?t think the public is knowledgeable,? Gordon continued. ?I?m crying out for clarity of communication so that the dummies in the audience like me who think they understand get the information so I can understand the extent of the problem. Maybe someone in the audience will come up with a suggestion, not plan, on it.? Last week, Gordon explained to me why he made the above comment. ?City Council was talking to city management back and forth with a clarity between them about CalPERS. I didn?t believe people in the audience as a general rule would understand the complex issue,? Gordon said. ?I felt leadership is making council members explain to constituents with clarity what?s going on. If the audience doesn?t understand it, it?s babble. City Council has to recognize the need to communicate that public understand what?s being communicated. It?s a need for transparency.? Gordon?s comments often get a smile or a chuckle from City Council members. And this week, his CalPERS comments prompted a column by City Councilman Gabriel Hydricks (see page A5). I wondered why Gordon spends several hours prior to every City Council meetings preparing what he will say. ?Why I address the Lincoln City Council is to share ideas of principles and practices that great leaders wrote, practiced and some of them shared with me,? Gordon e-mailed me a few hours after our phone conversation. ?I was extremely fortunate to have the benefit of exposure to fine universities UC, Berkeley where I earned a BA in Jurisprudence (two years at UC school of Jurisprudence, Boalt Law School). Before taking the podium to address council members, Gordon said, he studies the various issues by reading newspapers, books and reports. ?I try to find a storyline, theme. For example, I read something in the Wall Street Journal ? Stockton may apply for bankruptcy and I approached it as here?s a tale of two cities, Stockton and Lincoln, going back and forth, utilizing that approach,? Gordon said. ?I believe that in American governance systems, citizens should challenge the governing authorities because our American system of government is based on the principal that our government tolerates different points of views and generally progress is made when people of different views agree.? More residents should attend council meetings, according to Gordon. ?They might think Old Dave is trying to tell City Council how to do their business. In a positive way, I am but I?m trying to put a different emphasis on what a citizen of Lincoln should be doing,? Gordon said. ?The public needs to attend meetings, insist on communication about the major issues, and challenge City Council on what they?re doing with issues and the direction they?re taking.? Perhaps surprising is that Gordon, who attends every Lincoln City Council meeting, has only attended these types of meetings for the last two decades. Gordon said he worked long hours as vice president of marketing for two building system associations, Butler Manufacturing and Pabsco Steel for four decades. Now retired, Gordon has more time to get involved locally. But council audience members don?t have to spend as much time as Gordon preparing for meetings. Just attending meetings is a first step.