Thursday, May 13, 2010

If leadership is merely about holding press conferences, then Mayor Dean has been a perfect leader

I'll confess that I'm jaded with it comes to public relations specialists high-fiving government response. I wonder what kinds of contracts the PR flacks either have with Metro Nashville or want to have with Metro Nashville when they attempt to influence public opinion about events.

So, I would not be surprised if information that came to light in the future contradicted claims about how well the local emergency management functioned during May days of flooding. And if Jan Puckett Morrison wants to size up Karl Dean's leadership qualities on the basis of handling the local news media rather than engaging and motivating the community or mobilizing government infrastructure in response, far be it from me to argue with her assessment:
Much of the credit for this goes to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and all of the heads of Nashville's public agencies for being organized and acting quickly. When the city saw the flood waters start to rise on Sunday, Dean called a news conference with representatives from every possible Metro agency. He addressed the city with facts and real information. He anticipated that the media would have questions about schools, water, sanitation, power, FEMA, road closures and the like, so he asked individuals representing Metro schools, the Police Department, Public Health, Nashville Electric Service, Metro Water Services and emergency management to address media questions.
Since May 1, I've felt that the Mayor has had approached the crisis with a bunker mentality, projecting an image mostly for news conferences and the occasional photo op at a disaster site. Beyond that one is hard pressed to give credit to the Mayor. Credit for quick response in East Nashville goes there to the community itself. North Nashville has suffered for lack of coordination of response regardless of how well the Mayor got his messages out.

There may be a host of wheels the Mayor is turning, levers the Mayor is pressing, and cords the Mayor is pulling behind the curtain. Maybe we'll see them one day and appreciate his hands-on work instead of the media-manager image his administration is trying to project.


  1. But can't a self-starting community initiative on the part of those areas of the city that you chose to give credit to be attributed, at least in part, to their seeing steady leadership from a mayor whose response mitigated any possible nascent feelings of panic? As much as I respect and admire the actions by so many members of our community, it's silly to completely deny the effect of the grasstops on the grassroots.

    Beyond that, the fact that you've only chosen to hear the response of PR professionals in the city doesn't mean that they're the only ones praising the mayor. Every individual I've spoken to about the flood from outside the city, including my mom (from Gallatin) and a state representative from west of Davidson County, has praised the leadership of Mayor Dean, without any prompting from me. So it's quite possible that the flacks actually have a pretty good finger on the pulse of the population.

  2. The community at work in the field didn't have the media to rely upon. You see, they weren't watching the news or reading the paper. Instead, they were doing the hard work in the field.

    If the grasstops are responsible for impacting the grassroots, what examples could you provide? The examples of those from outside the county are irrelevant in this discussion because they could only be considered consumers of the media, at best. Unless of course they were in the trenches doing the work. Consumers of the media are reacting to the administrations spin, but I am sure you knew that.

    If you want to know how the adminstration fared during this disaster, go talk to homeowners who had significant losses in the flood.