Taxpayers picked up the $11,450 tab for councilman Tony Young’s Harvard seminar attendance.
  • Taxpayers picked up the $11,450 tab for councilman Tony Young’s Harvard seminar attendance.
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Fourth District San Diego councilman Tony Young caused a disgruntled stir in some quarters when word got around city hall in late June that he was taking the month of July off to attend a three-week, $11,450 seminar at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Taxpayers picked up the tab for the excursion by way of the councilman’s so-called professional development and training budget. On top of being a freebie for Young, the trip to Boston allowed the Democrat to duck a July 9 city council vote on the controversial plan by Qualcomm founder and La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs to remake parking and traffic in Balboa Park. A Young press aide insisted to a Union-Tribune reporter that the councilman would receive invaluable Ivy League wisdom by winging off to Cambridge.

According to a schedule for the program, entitled “Senior Executives in State and Local Government,” cocktails and dinner kicked off the first night, Monday, July 9. The next morning John Viola, a visiting fellow and graduate faculty member at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, talked for 90 minutes about the political management of the Job Corps, the antipoverty program begun in the administration of Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson. Then it was the turn of Marty Linsky, adjunct lecturer in public policy, to discuss the “Two Oaths of Richard Helms,” the Central Intelligence Agency chief convicted of lying to Congress. After lunch, Linsky returned to talk for another hour and a half about the career of Robert Moses, New York City’s imperious mid-century urban-renewal czar. Subsequent topics included “Leadership & Authority”; “Technical Problems & Adaptive Challenges”; and “Religion and Public Life,” parts I and II. Perhaps more immediately useful to Young, who has struggled along with the rest of the council to make the City’s ends meet, two of the talks explored “Local Finance.” Then there was a segment on “Experiential Learning,” as well as a topic called “Change of Management.” United States history was briefly covered with “Hamilton and Jefferson.”

On Saturday, July 14, the students boarded buses for a day at the Outward Bound Education Center on Thompson Island in Boston Harbor. The experience is designed “to develop high performance teams, cultivate a positive supportive and empowering culture, and form greater trusting relationships amongst colleagues,” says the Thompson Island website. The next week, it was back to business, with “Complex Multi-Party Multi-Issue Negotiations” and “Political Mapping.” On Thursday, July 19, a “special dinner” was scheduled with Dan Fenn, an adjunct lecturer in executive programs and once “a staff assistant to President John F. Kennedy,” who discussed “The White House, Then and Now.”

Much of the final week was set to be taken up with “participant cases,” as well as topics including “creating value through trading on differences: Congo River Basin,” “advocacy,” “engaging private capacity,” “effective implementation,” “partnership and competition,” “rural democracy,” and “living buildings.”

One especially notable lecture, considering Young’s absence from the San Diego City Council’s vote on the City’s so-called partnership with Irwin Jacobs to implement his Balboa Park plan, was set to be given by John D. Donahue, a former aide in the administration of President Bill Clinton and now a Kennedy School senior lecturer. His topic: “New York Parks.” Donahue is the coauthor of Collaborative Governance, “the first book to offer solutions by demonstrating how government at every level can engage the private sector to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems and achieve public goals more effectively,” according to its publisher’s description.

“Drawing on a host of real-world examples — including charter schools, job training, and the resurrection of New York’s Central Park — they show how, when, and why collaboration works, and also under what circumstances it doesn’t.”

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Javajoe25 July 25, 2012 @ 8:49 p.m.

I think Councilman Young should be commended for recognizing that education is not something that stops with graduation from college. It's too bad the entire council didn't go with him. The seminars and workshops sound terrific. It's too bad they are not available locally. San Diego's leadership could use some enlightened and forward-thinking ideas. Instead of allowing those from the corporate world, which has very little in common with public administration, make the decisions, perhaps some additional education along the lines of what Councilman Young has done, would lead to better decision making and a better city overall.


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