Is Mayor TenHaken a ‘Lab Rat’ for Bloomberg?

I recently read this interview with Mayor TenHaken;

TenHaken, 41, entered office with lots of ideas from his private-sector days about how to build an innovative culture. He said it all went into overdrive last summer. That’s when he joined 39 other mayors to kick off a yearlong executive training program through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

While PTH may find this as a great opportunity for the city (but mostly himself, on our dime) I have often been of the opinion that we should elect leaders that are ready to lead. On the job training is NOT a great attribute in a city administrator. In fact, other cities that have actual city administrators instead of a strong mayor setup hire administrators with experience or at least degrees in the field.

That’s why the Bloomberg Leadership training seems like some Harvard experiment to see how much they can influence local government across the country. And quite frankly it is quite scary how much PTH is following suit.

What strikes me is the cultish appeal this “human-centered design” problem solving method of approach seems to have among the leaders & quoted participants (which has actually been around for decades).

By the time Sioux Falls is ready to start piloting some solutions this summer, they’ll have confidence that they’re on to ideas that respond to real needs in the community, are likely to work, and represent innovation for Sioux Falls and its residents.”

Now, granted: those are presumably the words of whoever wrote this article for Bloomberg Cities (I don’t see a byline). However, it’s a pretty bold statement which seems to say this is a can’t lose proposition. I’m not inclined to believe very many “it can’t lose” claims.

Maybe it is just PTH and his young crew. He and his tribe seem smug; holding their cards close. Elbowing ahead with little explanation for the public about their process and goals. They know better. They have it all figured out. Brats!

It is frustrating to read quotes like this from Paul;

“We’ve got so many problems in the city that we were tackling the same way we did 10 years ago, and making two degrees of change,” TenHaken said. “That’s not enough”,

Especially in light of this pothole response. Is that just being perpetually critical of new ideas which aren’t mine/ours? Well, to a certain extent . . . yeah, probably. But, also – in the same way Former Mayor Bowlcut & Bucktooth wanted to erect monuments to himself while neglecting infrastructure – I think PTH is focused on intellectually titillating, entrepreneurially-exciting new org charts for municipal government and hi-tech innovations . . . to the exclusion of the basics. I remain a devotee of a healthy dose of “You gotta walk before you can run”; make sure you can take care of what you’ve already built before you take on more. Sure. Solving public transportation issues has merit and it deserves attention concurrent with other municipal responsibilities. But, fixing more potholes more quickly doesn’t take “cross-departmental synthesizing of key insights “, for chrissakes. Simply greater emphasis, higher expenditures: more teams, more trucks, more patch materials.


Maybe further explore new patching products (letting contractors in Europe handle their own R & D has helped them to construct better roads). And, instead of coddling department heads & staff for doing what they’ve always done (“Ohhh, we have to endlessly express our appreciation to our employees and bring them donuts” – I’m sure Wellness Director Michaels loves that), a leader (boss/administrator/head honcho) needs to hold his subordinates accountable. What successful coach babies his players to get winning results out of them??!!!! I guess one that gets it’s training from Bloomberg.

(CHB contributed to this post)


#1 Scott Linder on 03.29.19 at 9:20 pm

Sioux Falls elected a millennial Mayor. Going to be three more fun filled years of dealing with him.

#2 Paul ElevenHaken on 03.29.19 at 11:40 pm

1). He’s not a millennial. He’s a gen-xer trying to be cool acting like a millenial. Way too old to be part of the next greatest generation. Like all gen-xers he’d be sad you forgot his generation.

2). I’m pretty sure Harvard and Bloomberg are footing the bill for PTH. Might wanna double check that and correct the record.

3). Do we have so many potholes because we use road destruction/construction equipment to clear snow instead of actual snow plows?

#3 l3wis on 03.29.19 at 11:52 pm

PEH, I thought the same thing, he is a Gen-Xer, maybe not like me, but still in that category.

While they may be footing the bill, I would still like to see the financials. Is the city paying for travel expenses? I don’t know. He has also taken a lot of time off to attend the conferences. Would love to see the data.

Don’t get me started about snow removal. I do believe we are using 1970’s tactics.

#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 03.30.19 at 6:53 am

I bet Bloomberg has been to a PRIDE event.

#5 Warren Phear on 03.30.19 at 10:29 am

PEH, technically he is a millennial. Close to Gen X, but still millennial. Next greatest generation? You all need to learn how to vote first.

As a baby boomer, I have followed local politics for a long, long time. Voted for Knobe…once. Would say Gary Hanson was the best in the last fifty years. huether the worst. Paul? Too early to call. I think he means well, and that’s always a good place to start. Only knock is the transparency thing that keeps coming back to bite him in the butt. Also wish he would show more respect for the three people on the council who are actually representing their constituents.

#6 Blasphemo on 03.31.19 at 5:18 pm

Good post you & CHB have here. Following your link to the “Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative” web site, provides a good look at what this program is all about. Interesting that the PTH administration apparently has dedicated just one news release related to this item on the city web site (dated 7/23/18, “updated” 3/8/19), but you have to do an archive search to find it now. The press release contains NO web link to the program web site – it would have to occur to a Jon Q. Public press release reader to further Google search for more comprehensive info on the program. Seems like this would be a good bit of content to also park for a while on the mayor’s city web site page, if the experience is something he’s proud of. . . & will result in his adopting methods of approach he’s learned from it. Just put this stuff out front & center for everyone to easily see, PTH, instead of causing conjecture that you’ve joined some “Brotherhood Of The Bell” exclusive secret society.

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