February 21, 2006 > Fremont's Gordian Knot
Fremont's Gordian Knot
Do you ever wonder how at times, something that should be clear and concise can become muddled and confused? A case in point occurred the other night when I attended a meeting of community members to discuss the fate of the Fremont 50th Celebration Passport program. A presentation by a member of the "Steering Committee"/Board of Directors who is also an elected city official spoke to us about the "core mission" of the Celebrate Fremont organization that became less and less understandable as he continued. The theoretical chairperson of the organization sat quietly throughout the presentation without uttering a syllable. Although this was ostensibly a meeting of a "grassroots" organization, I couldn't shake the feeling that it had become a political platform.
This reminded me of the story of the Gordian Knot. Legend has it that in ancient Macedonia, a poor man named Midas fulfilled a prophecy that foresaw a man with a wagon who would become king. Midas was crowned king and to celebrate his good fortune and thank the gods for their favor, he tied his wagon to a post in the town of Gordium using an intricate Turkish knot with no exposed ends. Over time, the knot made of bark hardened and became intractable. An oracle claimed that whoever loosened this knot would rule all of Asia. Only one man was able to solve the puzzle, Alexander the Great, who fulfilled the prophecy. He simply sliced it open with his sword!
After listening to convoluted statements and reasoning at this meeting, it appears that Fremont 50th Celebration has been building a Gordian knot, not through malicious intent, but by well-meaning people who have spent extensive hours and effort creating an organization that does not appear to have a concise mission statement. When asked about this apparent lack of direction, the group was counseled to wait until the year has passed to make any judgments. Although through colossal efforts of several committees, there have been significant successes, the central question of the primary purpose and focus of Celebrate Fremont has yet to be clarified.
The mission as defined at the Fremont 50th website is:
Celebrate Fremont's mission is to enhance the quality of life in the Fremont community, now and for generations to come by serving all segments of the community; promoting the vitality of nonprofit organizations, fostering volunteerism and serving as a vital resource that promotes and enhances community activities including but not limited to those civic, cultural, and educational activities that celebrate the past, present and future of Fremont.
Grassroots participation is beginning to fray due to decisions that smack of elitism. Kowtowing to large donors while giving lip service to small businesses and individuals that are giving a significantly greater service compared to their net worth is not acceptable. Making decisions, then asking community groups to give advice after the fact is not the way to build confidence or consensus. It is time for this organization to become transparent and for all of us to understand whether this is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Fremont, the beginning of a Fremont United Way or exactly what is being planned. Well-meaning people are devoting significant efforts to this effort. This is an opportunity for Fremont to pull together and create a sense of community by celebrating its heritage and future. Let's not destroy the goodwill and sense of pride that has begun to percolate in our neighborhoods. The Board needs to take a hard look at its composition and ask if it really represents a grassroots constituency. Do city councilmembers really belong on this Board?