Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Montgomery County Government and Prophetic Leadership

My development team at IMPACT has ordered me to write about our fall fundraising campaign.  I should be doing just that, but this couldn't wait.  (However if you want to support us you can do so here!)

Prophetic Leadership:  Making the unpopular and uncomfortable decision--because it is right (or better said left!)--particularly when the immediate benefit goes to those among us who are struggling the most.

Another way to say it-- Truth-telling and action, with love.

The shortest hand reference-- Beloved Community.

Last week, the Montgomery County Council engaged in what I call prophetic leadership.  In the absence of federal legislation, and in the foreground of what appears to be state legislation, the Montgomery County Council voted to raise the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 to $11.50.  Our County Executive Ike Leggett has agreed to sign it into law.

The new legislation represents a 59% increase over the previous minimum.  As a consequence thousands of low-income workers will be able to earn a more livable wage in one of the most expensive jurisdictions in the nation.  

One day later Prince Georges passed congruent legislation to raise the minimum wage.  With the State of Maryland and D.C. (it appears) soon to follow only adds to the stunning brilliance of the moment.  Indeed, making this a regional imperative creates a type of "minimum wage zone" that can ignite our economies, lifting the "boats" of workers and business owners alike.

As you might imagine, everyone is not happy.  Rightfully so, small business owners remain fearful about the increased wage payouts that will come as a consequence of the new legislation.  There is much research on both sides of the minimum wage debate-- some suggesting that business and economy will be negatively impacted and some suggesting that they both grow.   Our way forward, demise or growing prosperity, will be determined by the will and ability for others in our community to act as our political leaders have done so in this moment-- prophetically!   

As the minimum wage legislation takes effect perhaps we should focus on policies and practices that help support the development and growth of small businesses and local economies.  It stands to reason that we do so, especially given the fact that 90%+ percent of all business in Montgomery County is "small business."

We have witnessed something incredible and noteworthy here in our County.  The caution though is that this is just the next step of what is sure to be many more, toward the goal of growing our collective prosperity and igniting what Gar Alperovitz and the folks over at the Democracy Collaborative call a "democratized economy."

As much as we fight and are critical of each other-- this indeed is a time to celebrate-- and then let's press forward, for there is still work to be done.

My soul is smiling-- is yours?