Defining true public serviceEditorial, Top Highlights Thursday, May 14th, 2015
Last week I completed nearly seven years on the Citizens’ Equal Opportunity Commission (CEOC), where for the majority of my term I was the chairman. The CEOC has been one of the most performing commissions at the City of San Diego in the last 10 years. We successfully increased City of San Diego purchasing from minority, female and disabled veteran owned businesses, as well as from small and emerging firms. At my first meeting, LGBT was added as a classification for the City to track and monitor contracts awarded to our community.
During my tenure, participation by non-white male firms grew from 4 percent to over 27 percent of the annual spend for construction contracting. That’s right, when I joined the commission 96 percent of all construction contracts went to firms that were owned by white males or firms who declined to disclose information about their ownership. Regardless, with an average of $400 million in construction projects annually, the CEOC grew participation of minority, female and disabled veteran owned businesses, as well as small and emerging businesses, from $16 million a year to over $100 million annually.
The CEOC has helped change the lives of many San Diegans by ensuring that contracting with the City of San Diego has moved from a good old boys club to one that is beginning to reflect the diversity of our great city.
This is the type of exemplary work that unpaid San Diego city commissioners do every day to ensure that we live up to the creed: America’s Finest City. Most city commissioners are not trying to gain political access, notoriety, garner customers for their business or to raise their public profile. In fact, these city commissioners go about their work with little or no recognition from the public they are serving; they have no hidden agenda, they simply want to make San Diego an even better place to live. That is true public service.
Public service is a term thrown around for anyone who works for government and that truly is an inappropriate use of the term in today’s society. Is a senator who uses his position to enrich himself a public servant? Or a congressman, mayor or city councilman? Have you ever wondered why a politician will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money to win a San Diego City Council seat that pays $75,386? It is not about public service.
True public service is about the common good. The unsung heroes of our city are those who serve on city commissions, boards and neighborhood organizations and do so for the common good. Unfortunately, there are always a small group of folks who serve with an agenda that is more about them than it is about the organization or San Diego. Over the years the LGBT community has witnessed several times where so called “public servants” have run organizations into the ground or misappropriated funds. Why does that happen? The City and our community needs more people to get involved.
When you hear troubling facts about a business improvement district, non-profit organization, or city commission, get involved; let your voice be heard. Be a true public servant.
True public servants ensure that the misnomered “public servants” that get paid big salaries or have self-aggrandizing hidden agendas are kept in check. There are many true public servants in our lovely city, but we need more.
When I joined the Citizens’ Equal Opportunity Commission, there were members of the commission who were lobbyists. How can a lobbyist represent the interests of the community? They don’t, they represent the interests of their employer. Under my tenure at the CEOC the lobbyists resigned or did not opt to extend their service on the commission. Once I stopped them from voting due to their conflict of interest, the lobbyists had better use for their time. That’s when the CEOC really was able to become one of the most effective commissions in the City’s history.
My service on the Citizens’ Equal Opportunity Commission did not enrich my companies or me. My fellow commissioners and I just made City contracting reflect the underlying citizens of San Diego. That’s what true public service is about; no money, no glory, just doing the right thing for the common good.
San Diego LGBT Weekly
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