At the conclusion of my recent State of the City address, I gave my mayor’s vision for the immediate future of Boulder City. My vision included five elements: family and faith first; being business friendly; crystal clear communication; keeping our financial house in order; and picking up the pace.
As part of the third element, I challenged the city to be more efficient, effective and proactive communicators. And I asked the Boulder City Review to help us, since our citizens deserve better information about what’s happening in local government. Editor Hali Bernstein Saylor promptly responded with the gracious offer to have me write a monthly column. So, thank you, Hali, for this opportunity.
I’ll probably address crystal clear communication in the near future, but today I want to focus on being business friendly.
A wise person once said, “You can sheer a sheep a thousand times, but you can only skin it once.” Businesses are an awful lot like sheep in that way.
If representatives of a prospective business are interested in coming to Boulder City and we treat them like they’re outsiders, like we’re doing them a favor, placing unwieldy conditions and legal roadblocks in their way, exacting up front every dollar and every offsite improvement we can get out of them, using language that belittles their efforts or suggests that we’re right and they’re wrong, then it probably won’t surprise you that they’re going to be very inclined to take their business elsewhere.
And even if they take the risk and stay, they’re not going to keep giving back to us. If we skin them alive, what do we expect? They won’t be successful and won’t have the ability to give back even if they want to.
On the other hand, if we treat them like partners, like teammates, like friends and fellow citizens, giving them the benefit of every doubt, talking to them with respect, listening with empathy to their concerns, focusing on solutions rather than problems, and, yes, even asking them to participate financially with us in long-term, mutually beneficial, win-win ways, then it also won’t surprise you that they’re going to be anxious to call Boulder City home and to do everything in their power to become a fixture here that keeps giving back to us over, and over, and over again for years to come.
And, of course, the same is true of existing businesses.
So, in case it’s not clear, my message to my fellow council members and to city staff is this: If and to the extent that the slaughterhouse is still open, we need to close it today. And replace it with a barber shop. The butcher mentality has to cease now.
We need to eliminate the attitude that we’re doing businesses, nonprofits, and the citizens of Boulder City a favor.
Ours is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The government isn’t the City Council, or city staff, or the police, or any other public officials. It’s “we the people.” So let’s treat people like it’s their government, not ours.
Furthermore, laws were made for us, not the other way around. They’re there to help us succeed, not to impede our progress. So let’s view them that way.
That will require a big paradigm shift. It means changing our vocabulary, avoiding the words “no” and “can’t” and replacing them with “yes” and “can do.” Sometimes a qualified “yes, if” or “yes, but.” But still a resounding “yes.”
It means embracing the mentality that the customer is always right (even if technically wrong). It means we’re here to serve our customers, not the other way around. It means we provide options, solutions and assistance, not obstacles. It means becoming problem solvers, not problem makers. And it means we firmly believe that we’re community partners.
Those are just a few thoughts from my State of the City address. But I hope everyone senses how serious this issue is to me.
If you’re interested in viewing my entire vision statement, please visit www.bcnv.org. And I’m always interested in hearing from you about potential topics for future columns. It’s a great honor to serve as your mayor, and my door is always open.
Rod Woodbury is mayor of Boulder City. He has been serving on the City Council since 2011 and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law.