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July 30, 2008 > Editorial: Do you love me?

Editorial: Do you love me?

An eternal question faced by just about everyone is "Do you love me?" The implication is of unconditional acceptance which does not waver with circumstance. For some this is a natural consequence of an attractive personality while others may struggle to find such approval. Not only individuals, but organizations and municipalities ask the same question. Companies rely on employee productivity which is directly related to a feeling of loyalty and comfort. Asking for efforts above and beyond the routine and ordinary relies on a core, elemental response to the question: Do you love me?

Cities are in many respects, similar to individuals. They are composed of many different functions and if all are in balance, operate well. Recognition of the relative health of this organism translates to citizens and visitors who feel safe, comfortable and happy. When the signs of health are positive, even when challenged by harmful situations, the population responds in an affirmative manner. A strong bond of confidence and comfort similar to love is formed. An example of this relationship can be found when citizens are asked to contribute beyond what is considered a basic effort. A case in point is when municipalities ask for additional taxes to support a perceived deficiency. The real question is, "Do you love me?"

Berry Gordy, Jr. wrote a song in 1962 that posed the same question. Recorded by the Contours, it quickly rose to #3 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and has the distinction of reaching #11 in 1967. It also hit #1 on the Rhythm and Blues charts. The song asked: "Do you love me, now that I can dance?"

In some ways, cities who ask for additional resources - usually money - from its populace are asking if they are "dancing" well together. Are civic moves coordinated and in synch? Just like the adage, "It takes two to tango," a partnership between citizens and their city must be well coordinated to function in an exceptional manner. Proof of this comes not only in times of prosperity, but can be demonstrated in fiscally trying times as well. When struggles are widespread, the tendency is to act defensively, protecting those who deserve our love and attention. The question remains, "Do you love me?"

The City of Newark recently presented the results of a public opinion sampling as the first step toward the possibility of a local revenue measure on the November 2009 ballot. This city is not immune to the fiscal trials and tribulations of the current economic climate and, like many of its neighbors, has made severe budget cuts. In the midst of this difficult period, a poll was conducted to survey the mood and trust of 500 Newark citizens. Essentially, it asked its citizens, "Do you love me?"

The results, while certainly, no guarantee, provide a glimpse of the attitude and bond between city and citizen. In this case, 55% of those surveyed indicated they were "very satisfied" and an additional 38% were "somewhat satisfied" with the quality of life in Newark. Although there are many factors that lead people to respond in this manner and such numbers may not lead to approval of additional taxes, there is a sense of community and as the mayor is known to say, "Newarkness" which goes a long way toward answering the question, "Do you love me?"

A poll of a group of Newark citizens is not the epitome of "love" but it does demonstrate a civic aptitude for fostering positive feelings toward its environs. Criticism is not absent in this city, nor should any city be above critique. However, attention to the basic core values of its inhabitants is essential to provide the trust and strength necessary for civic pride and action. Too often, leadership is absent or left to functionaries whose role is less "why" and more "how." As some election choices begin to take shape this year, the question of who will be your civic dancing partner will surface in many forms but remain, "Do you love me?"

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