Leadership During the Chaos

In response to a Facebook Post by Greg Falken.

Greg Falken: "I've been frustrated by the vague recommendations from local government on public behavior during the pandemic. Then I read this: "Americans’ disgust should be aimed at governments and institutions, not at one another. Individuals are being asked to decide for themselves what chances they should take, but a century of research on human cognition shows that people are bad at assessing risk in complex situations. During a disease outbreak, vague guidance and ambivalent behavioral norms will lead to thoroughly flawed thinking. If a business is open but you would be foolish to visit it, that is a failure of leadership."

Thoughts David Goldemberg for Supervisor, Jaron Brandon, Karl Rodefer for District 5 Supervisor, Sherri Brennan?

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/reopening-psychological-morass/613858/"Great share, Greg.

Jaron Brandon: "Thank you, and like 
Wayne said, I look forward to the other candidates responding as well. Things feel very unguided and I've been disappointed in the sheer negativity and infighting recently. It's hard to be on Facebook right now –– everywhere we go it's the same damn argument. Over and over. Even for something as challenging and new as COVID, it should have been a chance for us to see more transparency and our community rally together, shared purpose –– instead, it's chaos. It's very strong, inconvenient actions against an invisible enemy that most of us don't have the pre-requisite knowledge to fully understand without a lot of Wikipedia-ing. And unfortunately, we've followed the same County M.O.

Leadership is critical in any crisis, but ESPECIALLY so for emergencies that are dynamic, unfamiliar, and frightening. A few particular areas come to mind as to where we could improve:

–– Establishing a strong, clear, consistent, and unified message. It's been weak, murky, conflicting, and divided. Our elected leaders are putting themselves front-and-center in webinars and speeches and an angry letter calling the Governor a despot, more or less, but for what? Mostly a bully pulpit to contradict, question, delay, and ultimately undermine those working on these issues. Instead of seeing "wear a mask, do your best, let's talk about it" discussion, it's become politicized, maybe on purpose. We're getting 'public health is an opinion. it's a State conspiracy. Masks are good but not important, or important but not good. Everything shut down and many have died, but it's not that dangerous. Or it's dangerous but we're actually too different to get it here.' The rallying message was lost.

–– Getting buy-in from stakeholders. There was a long vacuum of information where businesses and people sheltered at home without knowing really what's happening or being done. Businesses and churches and events were closed without so much as a Zoom call hearing. It took months before there was any convincing of people that this is important. I'd argue that County has been less inclusive and less transparent in all this than ever before, and it wasn't good before. This was a huge opportunity to rebuild trust but has gone the other way.

–– Maintaining morale. Staff aren't getting the support they need. It's hard to imagine working for TC Public Health where these experts put everything aside to fight COVID only to find their representatives (with little relevant experience) disrespect them, fire their boss with little cause, openly contradict their work, and will not support them with enforcement. We've recognized "low morale" in past staff surveys –– this is a good example of why. A good leader takes direction when they know someone else is better equipped to make the call.

–– Fairness and transparency. People need to trust the process, and increasingly skeptical moderates don't. It's been opaque, hard to engage with, and looks like it is playing favorites. While many are sacrificing everything, we're seeing favoritism for places like Walmart and some shops operating like normal flouting guidelines. We missed having data on testing, the county Multi-Hazard Response Plan, the capacity and service of Adventist Health (took a long time), online conversations from officials, etc. And many people will not voluntarily comply with a system they view as unjust or untrustworthy. Without enforcement (fines, citations), trust is the only resource they have to work with.

–– Goal-setting. In the midst of all this sacrifice (and there's A LOT of quiet sacrifices out there like funerals and weddings postponed, bankruptcies, businesses going under, eviction notices, ill family members) we've talked about the struggles but not the end game. How does this pandemic end as compared to other diseases? How are we adapting and compensating?

For months, I've said how I'm truly rooting for Karl to do a good job. For our county, for the situation, I look to take on after November, as a resident. It's still true. But increasingly I'm realizing that left alone, we get very little communication, rogue actions, and leadership that's not just not helping but is a stumbling block for those working on solutions. So we need to speak up, as a concerned community, to make sure we are holding each other accountable, sharing information, having discussions, appreciating Public Health staff, and spreading a consistent message –– this is hard, it's important, we're working on it, and we know what we need to do.


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  • Cole Thompson
    commented 2020-07-16 14:53:45 -0700
    I’m looking forward to voting for Jaron now. Mr. Rodefer had the weirdest rant I’ve seen in a long time a few weeks ago on mymotherlode.com, going on and on about how wearing a mask and social distancing in the time of COVID was wrong and somehow un-American or something. Then Rodefer went on to take pot shots at the governor for urging people to follow public health guidelines. I read it and thought, Rodefer dude, what color is the sky in your world? Not more than 10 days after that rant the bad news from around the state started rushing in. It became apparent that we are in deep trouble, and a lot of good people are going to die, precisely because too many people think like Rodefer. Enough already.

    I’m an old guy now, but Jaron, I like your style. You are wise beyond your years. I’ve changed my mind about who I’m going to vote for and I look forward to supporting your campaign this fall.