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A City Manager destined to fail?

May 17, 2012

I’ve told our City Manager on several occasions that I would not want his job. He gets paid quite a bit, and I’m sure he earns every penny of it having to deal with a bunch of rank amateurs with little or no sense of vision. May God richly bless him in his work.

I met with him tonight and discussed many aspects of running the city, but most importantly the budget, the debt and the priorities for the city.  I think that the City Council has done a FAMOUSLY pathetic job of communicating their vision for this city.  It is disappointing to me.

I commented to him, that we should be talking about our vision for 5 and 10 and 20 and 30 years down the road.  Some policies, it will take that long to get put into place.  Things like sewer maintenance and drainage/retention/processing of rain water will become a big deal in the future if the projections for future population growth are even close to correct.

I spent about an hour, maybe more, talking to him.  He has been quite candid with me about where he thinks my ideas are practical and where they are not.  I’m forced to admit quite often that my ideas, while fairly radical, will likely never be implemented because I’d have to convince at least 3 others of my peers on council that it was a good idea.  I’m pretty radically conservative and I don’t think I’d have much chance of convincing many others without a LOT of excellent communication – something I hope to do a great deal more of.

My biggest concern for our City Manager at this point is that it is impossible to win if you don’t know how to score.  So far, I think Dr. Neils has very little to go on.  I’ve told him that I will not vote for any budget that includes a tax increase.  I’ve also been very clear that I will not vote for the debt if the structure does not include both principle and interest payments.  Those are very good boundaries, but provide very little if anything in the manner of how to deploy the manpower and financial resources that the city has.

Some of the unpopular suggestions I’ve made have been to cut back the Police budget, to increase the water rate temporarily to cover the cost of repairs to the system (I told him I’d love to see a specific time when the increase would expire), eliminate the senior center, eliminate the senior discount for water, eliminate the property tax cap for seniors, lay off all of the code enforcement people, lay off all the traffic safety officers, eliminate the civil service for Police and Fire, eliminate writing traffic tickets that fund the state, lay off the enforcement of infractions with no harm to a persons property or person, redo the CCPD to be run by citizens other than the City Council and others. For any one of these ideas, I believe there would be exactly one vote for the proposed direction:  mine.  🙂

The City Manager is in an awkward position.  He works for the council, but the council has given him little if any real direction.  While I have tried to do so, Dr. Neils can hardly be blamed for being reluctant to chase the rabbits that I have suggested without a plurality of council members supporting his efforts.

I have tried very hard during the course of our workshops to be very clear about the direction I’d like to see the city go.  However, there does not seem to be a wellspring of vocal support for those ideas, and very few (if any) alternatives presented to bat around.

This council needs leadership.  It needs a vision large enough to challenge the Council to aim high and diligently pursue something FAR bigger than themselves.  That vision has yet to materialize.  Can the City Manager be held accountable for failing to build something for which he has been given no blueprints?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 18, 2012 7:12 am

    I understand what you are saying Russell, but what does he say about excessive spending on his office and his giving us citizens demeaning looks like we’re a bunch of idiots when we come to the podium at the City Council meetings. I would not support keeping him whatsoever. Yes, it does matter the things you mentioned above even though I don’t agree with many, but I feel we have GOT to get excessive spending such as Dr Neil is enjoying under control. We could pay principal on loans if stuff like that was to stop and like you said, if they looked at the budget and made “reasonable” cuts. I guess it is easier to just go and “borrow” money!

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