Bring Back City Manager Reports

Posted on Categories Transparency 686

My second motion at the 7 May City Council Meeting was to direct the City Manager to provide weekly reports. This actually was the practice for many years (and continues in many other cities our size and larger.) It was cut back to a Monthly Report in 2018 and then dispensed with entirely in February 2019. We now get quarterly presentations from main departments which is OK. I guess. (Insert Red Green Man’s Pray here.)

But those reports are a list of accomplishments. That ain’t what I’m used to as a manager. I’ve spent most of my working life in jobs where people put in time sheets or talk about how their job works. Or at least, I’d occasionally get to walk the factory and see how the sausage gets made. Most residents are surprised to know that councilmembers have no more access to City Hall than they do–and that is weird to me.

So… what do you guys exactly do all day?

What I’m trying to say is that I have almost no understanding as to what a lot of the staff (including the CM) actually do all day. A list of accomplishments without context is not great for a guy like me. It’s like telling me you painted your house (impressive) but neglected to point out that it took you five years (less so).

Now here’ something: everybody hates doing these reports: hate, Hate, HATE. And I say that with some conviction because I did them for years and hated every minute of it. However, when I started my own company, we did them. My kid does them at his law firm. People at all levels of management do them. It’s sad that people hate them, but like regular visits to the dentist they’re really useful. 😀

And the thing is: Like most of us now, the City Manager has a calendar. So it’s already there; there’s no effort involved in preparing such a report. It’s actually less work than having to write a quarterly list of accomplishments.

Hanging out at the Marina

I was speaking to our harbormaster this morning and as we chatted I had the realization that I know how the Marina works because I’m there literally every day. And that makes me feel really comfy that its run well. I mean, I know this because I see it. I talk with people at their slips and they tell me that the service is great and so on.

Now here’s the thing: that’s maybe the first time I’ve actually had a conversation with Scott in twenty plus years. He saw me walking by and was kind enough to say hello. I rarely ever spoke with his predecessor, either. I think I’ve actually been in the office maybe 4-5 times. I’m not somebody who ‘monitors’ people. I just like knowing how things work and I’m routinely puzzled that my colleagues seem to have so little curiosity.

See that’s a key difference between myself and the majority. I value that kind of reporting and learning about people’s jobs. My colleagues feel like, “We hired the guy. Let him do his job.” (that’s a quote)

So… why do I bother?

I withdrew the motion only because I thought we had three votes to bring it to a formal agenda item at the next meeting. But… one of my colleagues changed their mind. My colleagues said they would only consider voting for this motion if the City Manager  were present, which I found slightly disingenuous. Because, of course he doesn’t want it. If he wanted to do it, he wouldn’t have stopped doing it two years ago. Because, like I said, nobody enjoys doing them–even if someone else does them for you.

So I’ll leave the issue with this observation: Since my election, that was the first meeting I’ve with all my colleagues where the City Manager was not present. And it’s telling that they said they did not feel comfortable taking action without him there. In fact, he was even present during his job review–which is also kinda weird to me.