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"I, MY, ME": CoMo Councilman's self-centered emails reflect top-down City Hall culture

Columbia's Me Generation, in charge

COLUMBIA, Mo 11/17/15 (Op Ed) --  Up for re-election in April, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas has an unfortunate habit of projecting City Hall's top-down, "we know best" leadership culture in his constituent emails. 

Twice in the past year, Mr. Thomas has apologized for using his city email address -- ward4 at gocolumbiamo.com -- to tell constituents why he supported ballot issues, urging them to do the same. 

An email he sent Sunday from his campaign address -- ian4thward at  gmail.com -- is equally self-centered

Entitled "Campus Turmoil:  What Does it Mean for the City?" the 800-word letter claims to seek input from constituents on a dazzling array of issues -- from racism to affordable housing.   "Only with the broadest community input can we create buy-in and the opportunity for success," the Councilman writes.     

But virtually every paragraph is prefaced with “I” or "my" or “me” -- “I believe,” “I see”, “it is clear to me,” “I congratulate,” “I want,”  “I have been,” “I commend,” "my thoughts," etc.

Mr. Thomas references himself and his opinions nearly two dozen times, in fact, concluding with, "Those are my thoughts - what are yours?"

Readers needn't wonder what they should do next, or rather, what Mr. Thomas wants them to do, either.   Six action items he prefaces with "In my personal view, we must...."  

"We must all take part in an honest and transparent dialogue about race and discrimination," he explains. 

"We must implement...."
"We must develop...."
"We must design and fund...."
"We must work with...."
"We must stop...."

For the many constituents deeply troubled by the Machiavellian style of city manager Mike Matthes, Thomas may come across as tone deaf for lumping Matthes in with Mizzou's new leaders. 
 
"I want to extend my congratulations and sincere good wishes to Mike Middleton and Hank Foley - leaders who are highly qualified to take charge at this challenging time," Thomas says.   "I congratulate City Manager Mike Matthes on his vision...promoting social equity as the foundation of the City's Strategic Plan." 

But Matthes' "vision" is so chock-full of corporate welfare it's almost laughable.   The "social equity plan" he unveiled to much fanfare last summer is typical city leadership:  use the poor as a lever to  distribute government gooodies to powerful special interests, or as First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton said, "use my people to pay your salaries."

Thomas almost has to interrupt himself to get back to the business at hand:  asking for constituent input.   "I encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts," he concludes.   

So I did.   "With all due respect, there’s not much room for my thoughts – or anyone else’s – between all those I’s, my’s, and me’s," I emailed my Councilman.   "Or through that repeated command, 'We must....'"  
 
"You guys listen to whom you listen, and it isn’t us.    The two Opus petitions proved that.   Mr. Matthes up for a big raise – more proof."
 
 -- Mike Martin
 
 
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