Reading, Pa. Mayor Spencer Vaugh’s state of the city address last Thursday was definitely the most compelling speech we read this week.
It was the most compellingly incompetent speech we’ve read so far this year.
“When I assumed the office of the mayor one year ago,” Vaughn began, never taking his eyes off the page, “I immediately began implementation of a bold and aggressive vision that required strong leadership in confronting the challenges facing our city. That vision was clear, specific and goal-oriented, and I promised to hit the ground running on Day 1. Then, something went wrong.”
What went wrong? Mainly, upon taking office Spencer hired six of his associates to jobs that the city council hadn’t actually created; he was censured and fined. But he doesn’t mention that. Instead, he attempts to flush the issue into the mysteries of the political cosmos.
What it was, and who is responsible are questions that today serve no useful purpose in asking. In fact, the disputes that arose in the early days, for all practical purpose, have been resolved.
Nevertheless, the attacks and obstructionism on the part of several members of Council have continued; sometimes openly and sometimes in the shadows. This has to stop.
Today, I call upon all reasonable members of Council to encourage their colleagues to engage in open and constructive dialogue rather than avoidance and delay.
Having shamed his enemies into becoming his friends, Vaughn goes into the usual laundry list of challenges and opportunities, only returning to his central message of petulant self-pity in conclusion.
Still rarely looking up from his notes, he quotes “the immortal words of President Theodore Roosevelt”—we’re sure he’s read all of Roosevelt’s stuff—
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no eeffort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We have and will continue to have a strong mayor form of government. I am the mayor. I am the chief executive of the city of Reading. As your mayor, I am the one in the arena. Thank you.
No, Mayor, thank you—for a comprehensive cautionary clinic in bogus leadership communication.