12/16/2005

Up or Out

The Mansfield Theatre, though full, was quiet. Not silent, but quiet. Not silent due to the occasional whispered curiosity or muttered complaint.

“This is bullshit.”

The stage lights went down, leaving the packed house in complete darkness. So it remained for several moments until the crowd heard footsteps from stage left. A steady clup clup clup…until it stopped at center stage. Those in attendance could feel a presence, knew someone stood before them, but their eyes betrayed them.

Only darkness.

With a muffled clank, a single spotlight illuminated their speaker.

“Thank you all for coming.” Then, with a smile, “Even though I made it a condition of your continued employment, I still appreciate your being here. I won’t take much of your time.
“I realize that I am but one of five. I, myself, hold no special sway over any of you. I have been called a figurehead.” And again, the disarming smile.

“But I think my election meant something. I have talked and talked with the people of this community…your employers…and I know it meant something.” With the emphasized pause at “employers,” a cynical rustling began. But the speaker would not allow it to continue.

“Things are going to change. Many of you know that the Tribune is not here today. Technically, we could not exclude them. I told them, though, that I would not do this unless they agreed not to come. I think,” with another smile, “they were so curious about what I intended that they agreed not to come just so they could quiz you all later. But even though they are not here today, the Tribune will print what I have to say. And things are going to change.

“How, you say? Probably the most important change will be my open door policy. I know you have all heard my predecessor and management and probably your own boss talk about an ‘open door policy’ but this is different. I mean it. I am going to invite people to come to my office whenever however whyever they want. And this will be important when I talk about…

“Number two. Your attitudes will change. Now. Or out you will go. I have nothing but respect for all of you, but there are those among you, and you know who you are, who are coasting. You spend more time complaining than working. You spend more time figuring out how to get out of work than doing what needs to be done. The people in this community are our neighbors, our customers. We can and will serve them.

“That means when someone walks into your office, they are greeted with a smile. And the first thing that pops into your head will be, had better be,” the smile now gone, “how can I help this person. The old cliché of one guy working and four standing around is over. Five guys will be working.

“If a businessman wants to remodel his business, you damned well,” then, for emphasis, “damned well better be thinking about how he’s going to get it done. It’s up or out.

“Because if someone comes into my office and explains how she faced the bureaucratic attitude, how the first answer was a scowl and a no, how the telephone just rang and rang and no one answered, I will get to the bottom of it. And to hell with lawsuits, I will have your job. It’s up or out.

“I am not afraid of unions. I know that unions are no different than any other group of people, some good, some bad. I will make it clear to the unions. We will honor our contracts, but to a ‘t.’ If a contract requires 8 hours of work, we damn sure intend to get 8 hours out of you. And if the union files grievances we’ll fight them, we have three lawyers working for us already, right.” Then, pretending to glance around the audience to locate the lawyers, “Dust off those labor relations books, boys.

“Eventually, we’ll win. We’ll weed out the good from the bad.

“You see, you all need to remember something. Your jobs are good jobs. They pay pretty well for Great Falls, Montana, and you have decent benefits. I’ve been in the private sector, and it’s not as easy and wonderful as some of you may think. There are production requirements, public service requirements, and high expectations. Come to think of it, as of today, ‘Welcome to the private sector.’

“But when you do perform, I will notice that too. You only need to read the letters to the editor in the paper to know that if you help someone, they’ll notice it. And, union or otherwise, those of you that embrace your jobs, and embrace this community, will be rewarded. Some way or another. If I have to make cookies out of my own pocket for every last one of you to reward you for a job well done, I’ll do that.

“I love this town, I really do. When I run my last minute errands on a baking hot afternoon on the 4th of July, waiting for the night’s fireworks, there is no place in the world I’d rather be. When I walk through one of our parks on a spring evening and the sky is so clear I can almost touch the stars, there’s no place I’d move. I walk along the Rivers Edge Trail early in the morning, see a little fox run across my path, and I know I am in heaven.

“This is not a second-class city. This is my home…your home. And we love it here. And we better start acting like it.

“It’s up or out.”

And with that, Mayor Stebbins turned and walked off the stage. The audience, filled with every employee of this City, was quiet.

10 comments:

ZenPanda said...

Wow.
I voted for her!

a-fire-fly said...

Very Nice. On my feet clapping and yelling like a teenager at a rock concert!

Anonymous said...

The irony being, Donna's reason for running for office was the City getting rid of a worthless Union employee.

dona stebbins said...

Easy to snipe from behind your silly cloak of anonymity - grow some balls, why don't you?
That was a contributing factor, and the union employee was far from worthless, but one of the hardest working people I know.
And you still can't spell my name - Alex, is that you? If so, that explains a few things...like the lack of cojones:)

Anonymous said...

I just hope Dona can accomplish the changes she has in mind. As a private citizen of Great Falls I have never felt like any city employee has acted like he or she worked for me, in fact the attitude is them (city) against us (citizens).

Anonymous said...

This is a nice speech, but why all the hatred towards the working stiffs? It wasn't the $10.25 an hour college kids mowing the fairways who lost 200 grand and it wasn't the $9.00 an hour clerks in the Civic Center who blew $550,000.00 on the L&C Signature Event.

Maybe you should look a little higher.

Where DOES the buck stop?

Jim Rohrich said...

Thank you, Dona. Great speech and good job on getting the word out. Keep busting those rice bowls.

And anonymous... she's right. Walk erect or shut up.

david said...
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david said...
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david said...

I'm not too bright sometimes -- is this a record of an event, or just a glimpse into the possible future?