Thursday, March 22, 2007

How do we know that the City Manager did a bad job on Biz-Dev?

I ran out of time yesterday, but let's dig into the part of Sam's comment about the City Manager style of government.

If you look at the city council's actions under Neil Dillard's leadership, they knew the city manager was doing a bad job on business development. The created the Carbondale Business Development Corp (CBDC), funded it for $250k per year and took away the city manager's responsibility to do biz-dev. Then no one monitored that relationship and business development stopped in Carbondale for many years.

The CBDC had offices outside of city hall and so there was no communication. Prospective business would come to city hall and the city hall employees would cheerfully crap all over them and give them a brouchure (with a smile) about CDBC. The quote I got 5 some years ago was, "we can't help you start a business in town, that is CDBC's job." A classic, please go where you are wanted, which isn't Carbondale, message.

I agree about the way a City Manager led city might work, but the implications that Carbondale is getting acceptable results, I can't agree with. In Carbondale we have had both a city manager that didn't do the job on business development and after that responsibility was removed from the city manager's hands, the mayor and city council didn't care enough or have enough energy to track results.

It was a failure on all fronts. The buck stops here blame is with the mayor and city council, they just didn't have enough time and energy to manage the city's processes and results, taking action when things were going wrong. For this we have to blame, the nice man, Neil Dillard and the rest of that era's city council members (Steven Haynes).

But if you don't want to blame Dillard, you can blame the system of City Manager led government we have in Carbondale. Running a city government is too complicated to leave to people working 10 hours a week.

Your comments are welcome.

7 comments:

nobody said...

maybe it's not too early to suggest seeking a replacement for the City Manager, and that business development should be a higher priority qualification than it was in the past...

Sam W. Clyde said...

1. CBDC was ran really poorly by the a Board of political appointees who really did not want to do anything and a Director who was out of step.
2 What type of Government do you prefer other than a dictatorship?
3. Surely you are not implying that the City Manager only works 10 housrs a week, I assume you ment Dillard.
The line being drawn over this Mayorial race is that the needs of the community that were being addressed during the Dillard years have been dismissed during the Cole years. The problem is both sides needs, should be taken care of. Community and Economic Development and oh by the way basic city services.

Peter in Carbondale said...

To nobody - I like the city manager and think he tries very hard for the city, but we have put him in a situation where he can't succeed.

I'm not suggesting that we replace the city manager. I'm suggesting that when this city manager retires, we switch the city over to a mayor led government.

When I was a young engineer in Silicon Valley, I was sent off to do a task by my team leader. I was green as grass and spent a week looking at what I had been asked to do. Figured out that it was really impossible in the time frame that I was dealing with to accomplish the task. I went back to my team lead and gave him the word. He turned around and told our manager that I had wasted a week doing this investigation. Needless to say, this really pissed me off. I feel that this is where we are with the city manager.

What happens when you are running the day to day operations of the city, but the mayor and city council don't understand what is going on? Who sets the direction? In Carbondale, the answer was no one for many years.

I feel like we have this position in Carbondale now. The citizens want the city mayor and council to set the direction for the city. The problem is that the complexity of running the city is up hundreds of time over 50 years ago. It is like teachers and no child left behind. I'm fairly sure that you can't do the job well part time anymore.

To Sam -
So the city makes the big move and outsources bizdev to CDBC and gives them $250k plus per year. The whole things is a mess, of this we can all agree. So who is to blame? Both the CDBC and the city for being so stupid to allow that bad situation for 10 years. I don't care you we blame here, but shouldn't someone have paid attention to this after the move? Reminds me of Iraq, it might have been a good idea (I'm not sure), but the implementation stunk and no one corrected it forever.

I prefer a Mayor led government like 93% to 97% of American cities. It is fun to look at other city manager cities in Illinois, they are treading water too.

Of course, 10 hours a week is my rough estimate of absolute minimum hours you could spend being a city council member in Carbondale. If you did only 10 hours a week, you couldn't read the documents or do research ahead of the meetings. Again, my guess. You can see the problem with this can't you? If the city leader don't do more then less then the minimum, you have no intelligence being applied to leading the city.

Sam's "line being drawn" comment makes no sense to me. Carbondale has great and expensive city services, so I know you can't be talking about those being anything less then excellent. We all know that the economic development has been the best in recent history in the last 4 years. What "community development" are you talking about? Are you thinking that our Carbondale city funded "Study Circles" doesn't work? Funding the Boys and Girl's club? Do tell.

I have one more entry in this arc to come tomorrow - "The Legend of Carol Fry."

Love to hear from Sam or anyone else if they have a thought. These comments are though provoking to me.

Sam W. Clyde said...

Ok ,we agree the City Manager has been put in a bad spot. I cannot feel confident in an elected official running the city in the long term. There are certain expertise required that an elected official will not be required to have before running for office.
I think the job descriptions of the Council and City Manager need to change.
CBDC was not held accountable I agree. If CBDC had been held accountable and people placed on the board had expertise,passion, limited terms, and had been evaluated yearly by the City then it would have performed better.
I think the city has a good start but the follow through needs to happen with evaluation and accountability. A City Manager who has more authority would take the politics out of the process.

Community Development - plaza's, Carbondale Community Arts projects, Lights Fantastic, Boys and Girls Club, Science Center (although it could be better), The new sports park and of course basic city services.

I will have to research Carol Fry because I was pretty young and not to interested at the time. I only remember him saying things like
"that dog won't hunt". I assume you will want to discuss Helen Westburg and Hans Fischer as well?

I've got to go watch the game now!

Peter in Carbondale said...

You can not feel confident? Oh good grief. Go do the work Sam, Mayor led cities are well over 95% of the city governments in the USA. Good thing the rest of the country doesn't need your approval isn't it? More cities might have the poor results of Carbondale.

So you are saying that Carbondale is doing a great job in Community Development. Yes, I agree. Community and City services are great and have been great for many, many years. Add in the services added to the community by SIU and you have a great place to live, if you have a job. Business development was in the dumper until 4 years ago though and should be our focus.

Thanks for mentioning Helen Westburg, the last mayor who worked full time running the city.

Anonymous said...

Peter said "Mayor led cities are well over 95% of the city governments in the USA."

I am not disagreeing, but can you give a reference for this, and does the 95% figure hold for cities our size?

Peter in Carbondale said...

You can easily do the numbers on all mayor vs. city managers led cities, but doing the numbers by size isn't something that I have seen distilled. I don't know the answer for small cities, I did look a little though.