In a flash, almost 4 weeks have passed, and what originally felt like a packed schedule now only reads “Saturday – Depart for DC”.
Since the last post, so much has happened. We were privy to the city election process, which was unusual because even though there was a slight buzz in the air, offices and work went on as per normal. I guess this was because the day was not designated as an off-day for most workers as it is in Singapore. I also learnt that in general the percentage of the population that vote is much lower. From an objective point of view, this is an area of concern because it means that the votes may not be an accurate reflection of the people’s preference. More importantly, apathy towards policies and politics generally reflect a detachment between the policy makers and people on the ground. This tends to worsen the perception of the people’s government and might breed an environment of distrust, which is never good for any society.
On another note, I have felt a strong sense of ownership and responsibility from the leaders in the City of Dubuque. The staff are forward-looking and open to learning. This, in my opinion, is imperative for any civil service that works for the people. As much as policy makers often have the most up-to-date information, and range of experience needed to implement well-intentioned policies, it is dangerous to assume that their decisions are always right, and having the humility to receive opinions from the ground helps to cover any blind spots they might have. This is something that I believe all public/civil services will benefit from. How to continue maintaining these values, and hiring more of such staff, is a question I’m sure all City Managers will be very keen to learn.
I have seen first-hand how important strong and responsible governance is required for sustainable practices and policies. And while we were here to learn about environmental sustainability, a huge learning point was how responsible practices apply not just to the ground, but all the way up to leadership. This, I believe, is something crucial that will be useful to Singapore.