Thursday, January 12, 2012

Should Krovoza see this

What follows is an email from Jon Li, who ran for City Council against Joe Krovoza and lost. Mr. Li titled this email, "Should Krovoza see this."

Yeah, Yeah, Good, Good
The Mayor nobody knows: Joe Krovoza
February, 2011

A little over a year ago, by Thanksgiving, Joe Krovoza had built such a strong campaign mailing list of potential supporters that he was the acknowledged front runner and coasted to victory in June. Krovoza's campaign platform was partnerships, especially between the city and UC Davis, finding financial answers (which Krovoza claims as a strength), and being diplomatic in the council ego chaos. Krovoza leveraged his many years work on the Putah Creek Council to reflect his investment in water and environmental issues; his many years coaching youth soccer while his girls were growing up; and, his long time commitment to bicycles and his day time job with UCD's Institute for Transportation Studies - which all added up to an attractive package as a candidate for the Davis city council.

Krovoza campaigned hard personally, but he really didn't have a campaign organization. People had individual responsibilities and assignments, but the campaign wasn't about rejuvenating Davis politics - it was about elevating Krovoza. The front runner from start to finish, he ran a risk free campaign of not taking a stand on any issue, so he cannot legitimately claim a mandate to do something he had advocated as a candidate.

Krovoza's campaign peaked on June 8th, election day. He then shifted into post-election disconnect with the voters. Krovoza acts like he has a mandate, unconditional support for whatever he happens to propose. Apparently Krovoza's leadership model is that he wins all the arguments. Actually, too often he has already made up his mind, decided what to do, and expects you to ratify his announcement and cave on your concerns (rather than that he will be able to negotiate from a better position based on your new information).

Krovoza has a tin ear, and a short attention span. Fortunately, he has built in a subconscious reflex when he has lost all patience, and stopped listening and expects you to stop talking and submit to his superior wisdom: he says, “yeah, yeah, good, good.” At that point, his subconscious is announcing to you that you had best give up talking, because he is no longer listening to what you are talking about. His mind has shifted to an entirely different topic, and as soon as you have stopped talking, he will tell you what it is. Krovoza stopped listening to me November, 2009 (see Thanksgiving above).

Krovoza brings an interesting skill set to the council discussion. He went to a premier techie high school in Southern California, and he loves to play engineer. In college, he devoted a lot of energy to maintaining a council of colleges in the greater Los Angeles area. At King Law School, he excelled in environmental law. These experiences have shaped Krovoza’s strengths: he runs a good meeting, and there is little potential for the kind of sibling fights that dominated the past decade of council discussion; he is working hard at attending Sacramento regional meetings and being the “new Davis image” in regional politics; he is an advocate for bikes to a fault, and, he has a laser focus on what he considers to be sustainability issues.

Unfortunately, the strengths define too much the weaknesses as well:
- because of his day job and regional meetings, he is invisible in the community, in ways that Don Saylor remains conspicuous because Saylor has nothing else to do;
- he is spending too much time grilling city staff on the phone in these one way conversations where Krovoza expects immediate performance improvement, as he happens to be defining it in the moment. Entirely too much of the Mayor’s attention is focused in minutia in the mechanics of what is probably someplace in the public works department. The Mayor loves to be an engineer. It is hard to imagine him listening. “This is MAYOR KROVOZA..” the phone conversation begins with a growl tone and quickly gets deeper as he is pushing his personal power. (appropriate staff response should be: “Thank you for giving me your valuable time. It would be best if you would type that up as an email to your city council colleagues, and make it a council agenda item. Now, I need to get back to work. Thank you for your call. Good-bye.”

Krovoza is going to have a tough time as mayor. He is going to want to be advocating when he should be listening and focusing on serving all the other people who are waiting to talk. He thinks that power is enhanced by bossing people around, instead of by superior listening - for insights, alternatives, analysis and even a whole new way of looking at the problem at hand.

There should be another person besides the city council members, to facilitate the meetings - council, commission, whatever. Not Elvia, but people trained by the city's mediation program, for the council a pool of maybe a half dozen who would become a trained subculture like the referees in the National Football League. The mayor should be running the policy discussion, not worrying about personality issues.

During Krovoza’s campaign, he was focused on himself, and was competitive to a fault in his relations with his opponents. Krovoza started with a cache of good will built up over the years when he decided to run, and he leveraged that to a successful campaign; but he didn't build a campaign, he used his good will and coasted. He didn't learn how to build support during his campaign, he learned how to leverage endorsements into more endorsements. He peaked on June 8th, and expects people to automatically support him from now on.

Krovoza's first imperial shot was the mandatory back-in diagonal parking, which blew up badly enough that it will be interesting to see how well he is able to massage the message when he brings it back up for council analysis after the trial test period. Did anyone else think it was worth doing? Staff acted like sheep, automatically doing as directed, but that was the end of his honeymoon.

Whether or not Krovoza knows how to build community remains to be seen. With only six months experience, Krovoza has the mayorship for the next three and a half years, if he survives. Krovoza is not nearly as cool under stress as he claims. He blows up pretty easily, soon after he realizes he is not getting his way. He is going to find he is a captive audience. People will use public comments to personally provoke him (or other city representatives) in ways that are going to infuriate him. Krovoza is going to be steaming so red that his ears look like they are going to burst. What does Krovoza do then?

Sue Greenwald has many personal demons that Don Saylor provoked too often, but we have ten years experience with Greenwald. With Saylor gone, the Davis City Council won't have that melodrama to worry about any more. Krovoza's demons are of a different nature. His aspirations for power are calculated, so it will be interesting to see what deals (remember, partnerships) Krovoza comes up with.

Krovoza suffers from not having had a full two years as only a council member, to be able to push and shove for little projects, to learn his way around the inside. Now he is supposed to be right about the big things. How he does in the spring budget process will be a learning experience for everybody. Krovoza is only in charge. He needs to bring out the best in other people, especially Interim City Manager Paul Navazio. The Mayor hasn’t figured out that he is so attached to Navazio that every time he interrupts, on the phone or in meetings, the Mayor is hurting his own and the city’s effectiveness.

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