Wednesday, September 21, 2011

david moon lays the smackdown on leggett's proposed curfew

There are a lot of reasons to oppose County Executive Ike Leggett's proposed youth curfew. The most significant one may be that he's spent the past two months highlighting a few isolated crimes in downtown Silver Spring, scaring potential visitors, businesses and residents away from the area and anywhere unfortunate enough to have a "Silver Spring" mailing address. Friend of JUTP/former co-worker/political strategist David Moon wrote this lovely screed about the curfew as a public relations gaffe on his blog, Maryland Juice:

The most important job of a County Executive is simply to sell a County. This is done through both policy and public relations, as we noted through the example above. Your audience on any day varies but might include bond rating agencies, potential residents and employers, nervous parents, an angry workforce, or any number of possibilities. Your mission on most days is simple: make good policy and manage the press . . . 

A good negotiator of the press will play his or her cards correctly: When crime is on the rise, an Executive can do no more than appear tough on crime and signal to observers that something is being done -- even though we all know little can be done to move crime rates against the current of statistical trendlines. But that is because, as stated above, the Executive's role, first and foremost, is to sell the County. Just ask Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and DC Mayor Anthony Williams about the importance of combating crime fears for attracting residents, retail visitors and businesses.

But when crime is on the decline, when an isolated crime event occurs, an Executive's job is to calm fears and rally the community. Indeed, urban officials around the nation typically express frustration when crime rates go down and the public still thinks crime is going up. They see their job as to act swiftly but combat misinformation -- in order to keep selling their community to the public. The show must go on.

Anyone who's lived in East County for more than a few years knows there's a crime problem, whether real or perceived. The revitalization of downtown Silver Spring (and, soon, the revitalization of Wheaton) hinges on people feeling safe there. And as more people visit these areas, they become safer due to the presence of what Jane Jacobs called "eyes on the street."

Obviously, people were worried about the stabbing two months ago. But Ike Leggett should've been a leader and reminded his constituents that it was an isolated incident. At the least, he should've given us a package of "solutions" similar to the one that MoCo Police Lt. Carter gave us at a meeting last month, so we could have an actual discussion on the issue. Instead, he's dragged the reputation of Silver Spring through the mud, making it hard to draw people back because even if the area's safe (which it is), people won't feel safe there. And that's what really matters.

Anyway. Read David's post. Read it again and again and again. I hope our friends in Rockville read it, too.


Woody Brosnan said...

woody brosnan, vice chairman of Safe Silver Spring, wrote:

No, it is not the primary job of a leader to "sell" the county and manage the press. The job of a leader is to confront the issues and communicate the needs to his constituents. We formed Safe Silver Spring to "keep" Silver Spring a safe place because we believe it is safe. And that is what the county executive is trying to do as well. Mr. Moon takes the rather cynical view that you confront issues with salesmanship. That does not fool anybody.

Dan Reed said...

If Ike wanted to confront the issues, he wouldn't be blaming crime in Silver Spring on "kids from DC and Prince George's." If he wanted to communicate the needs, he wouldn't have proposed a solution that kept youth from being out at night.

It's not cynical to say that the County Executive's job is to make MoCo look good. Why do you think Doug Duncan spent so much time and money in Silver Spring? It's not just to make the neighborhood better. He knew having a blighted downtown at the entrance to the county made MoCo look bad. Branding IS important, and if Ike knew that, the Germantown "flash mob" wouldn't have been in the LA Times.

David Moon said...

Woody -- I don't consider press-stunt policymaking like curfews to be confronting anything real. But we can agree to disagree. If you show some causation with respect to the curfew, I'm willing to look at it though. I don't want this decision to be made on hunch -- I want it to be made on data.

David Moon said...

I also said the Exec's job was to sell a county "in many ways." Ie: not quite literally. That being said, any REAL policy with respect to crime understands that "in many ways" perception is reality. I think the curfew is misperceiving reality and spitting back out in a mangled form.

Patrick said...

Ike has definitely defamed Silver Spring and needs to go. He is going to blight us all with his untruths.

We all want a safer Silver Spring, but he needs to face reality that crime is down. What he should be talking about is making Silver Spring even safer, not raising hysteria and scaring people away from the area.

It's embarrassing.

~Patrick Thornton