Public Policy Final Exam: Review of Garbage Can Decision-Making ModelGarbage Can Decision Making Model
- Goals: Emerge Spontaneously
- Means/End Analysis: Means independent from Ends
- Test of a Good Decision?: If participants agree the problems and solutions matched
Context: The incident prompting me to review the “Garbage Can” Decision-Making Model was the San Antonio City Council vote to remove the Confederate monument located in downtown Travis Park.
The prelude to this vote was the events surrounding a racial and politically charged protest held in Charleston, West Virginia where enraged citizens vehemently argued with each other in the streets over whether statues representing the Confederacy should be allowed to be removed from public places. As tensions grew increasingly hostile between the engaged parties a riot broke out and a woman was run over by an irate protestor who charged his vehicle into the crowd. She eventually died from her wounds suffered from this road rage. The typical media frenzy ensued and a public cry was put out across the nation by activist groups and other political and administrative figures to remove any public symbols representing the Confederacy and its tainted legacy of slavery or any other remnants of “institutional racism” leftover from the Civil War or Jim Crow era, whether this be statues or high school names or what have you.
In San Antonio, a local coalition of community activists, consisting of college professors, former public office holders, and the activist organization Black Lives Matter, had recently failed in their efforts to persuade and influence the SA city council to include measures of accountability concerning negligent police officer action in the recently renewed contract between the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Officers Association. The activists swiftly changed the mission of their crusade to jump on the national bandwagon and, sure enough, a Council Consideration Request (CCR) was soon submitted to SA City Council by District 1 Councilman Robert Trevino and District 2 Councilman William “Cruz”.
The means of the activist coalition group to hopefully achieve the ends of their newly forged goal of eradicating any hints of institutional racism in civic arenas? Same as last time: this activist coalition who would characterize itself as non-violent consistently acted pro-virulent toward any authority figure representing the establishment and outright dismissed any opposing viewpoints no matter how logical or rational the counter-arguments. They threw justice, as an attribute of individual action, out the window and instead replaced it with their own brand of justice with undertones of “by any means necessary.”
A perfect storm of a policy window emerged and the activist coalition focused the aims of its agenda through all the right channels of the policy stream and SA City Council passed the vote, in which Mayor Ron Nirenberg disregarded the standard democratic process altogether for a CCR, by a margin of 10 to 1 with the lone dissenting vote cast by District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry for just that reason: “…we can’t do knee-jerk reactions. We have processes.” Later that night a contractor’s crane parked itself in front of the monument before midnight and by 3am the Confederate soldier statue and supporting obelisk were removed, as well as the model field artillery cannons which were attributed to neither William Barret Travis nor the Confederacy. A handful of activists rejoiced at the sight in the wee hours of the morning and local media outlets remained on site until the last piece was loaded up on the sturdy platform of an eighteen-wheeler rig. The statue removal cost $258,860 of city taxpayer monies.
And what was the test of this council vote as a good decision? Were any traces of institutional racism, in a city of historically low-profile racial or ethnic tensions, abolished once and for all? San Antonio’s downtown annual jazz music festival Jazz’SAlive, held in Travis Park for the past 34 years, kicked off without a hitch. No public mention was made on stage as concertgoers of all racial an socio-economic backgrounds relaxed to the live music performances and enjoyed hot food and cold drinks as they had always done since 1983. Local grocery chain HEB elected to move its annual Christmas tree lighting event from Alamo Plaza to Travis Park and placed the giant tree in place of where the Confederate monument once stood. For years families have made a tradition of attending the event, supplemented by a night time river parade of decorated river barges and other fanfare. Meanwhile, local activists remain waiting in the wings with their matching problems and solutions ready in hand, to be applied toward the pursuit of social justice at the spark of a moment’s notice.