Jennifer Graham’s Jan. 14 op-ed on the longevity of some mayors was disturbing, but not for the reasons she was suggesting (“A generation gap at City Hall”). The problem of longevity in office was so narrowly discussed that it made the solution — elect youth — seem a slam-dunk, when there are, in fact, complex issues that deserve public attention.
On the one hand, longevity in office often brings established, overused patterns of problem solving, a “we have always done it this way” attitude, that misses fresh alternatives that newer eyes can offer. On the other hand, longevity can also bring balanced judgment in crises, skills in setting priorities, and an ability to navigate competing values in our society.
More disturbing than the narrow focus was Graham’s implication that there is no room for older as well as younger leadership. Both are exactly what we need as we face the complex challenges that beset us as a nation. We need innovation and experience, agility and tested judgment. We also need to discuss how to reach across gaps, not settle for partial truths that further divide.