Sunday, July 15, 2012

Time to Reduce Spending Power of City Manager

When we first became a city, mayor and council agreed that the city manager could spend up to $50,000 on nearly anything, without asking permission from council.  As a start-up city, this was okay.  No need to bother council with day-to-day purchases of office supplies, chairs, and other small ticket expenses.  Our council and mayor are part-time, and the bulk of the work in the city should be performed by the city manager and staff.  The city manager has performed a nice job and I'm not aware of any abuses of the $50,000 rule.

However, the time has come to reduce this spending cap to $10,000.  I hope someone on council will bring up this issue.  Allowing the city manager to spend up to $50,000 on certain things creates a scapegoat of sorts for council as they can simply tell us, the taxpayers, that, "we never voted on that".

So what's the worry?  No cases of the city manager blowing funds on dumb stuff, is there?  No, there is not.  In no way do I think the city manager has misspent any funds.  We have a competent council and mayor to keep an eye on everything and the city manager has proven to be competent in his position.

So why the alarm now?  Signs.  Big and ugly signs.  Big and ugly signs at the city's non-commercial underused and underdeveloped green space (aka parks).

Click the image above to listen to audio clip from council meeting earlier this month.

The city manager loves the logo and branding, something he and I obviously disagree on.  It seems as I am not alone in disliking the Legoland/ E Trade / Walmart themed logo.  Listen to the audio from the July 9th council work session.  The city manager tells council the cost of parks signage is under the threshold granted to him, meaning he can go buy those signs tomorrow, regardless of what residents here think.  He does offer up council a chance to weigh in with opinions before he heads out to spend up to $50,000 on park signage. He also refers to parks signs as more imminent.  Imminent?  I disagree.  Like most others, including the city manager, I'd like for the city to look nice, and have things convenient for residents and visitors.  But lets pave a couple more roads and add a couple hundred feet of sidewalks with the money budgeted for park signs and monuments.

Speaking of imminent, take a look HERE at Blogger Bob's blog.  Holding ChatComm's feet to the fire regarding our 911 system is imminent, signs for parks is not imminent. Agree?  You need to let your mayor and council know.

Do you really want to spruce up the area around a park?  Start with knocking down the ridiculous concrete mass of a sign/wall in front of Brook Run.
Mr. Mayor, tear down this wall

So the dialogue continues and the artwork is discussed.  But this is not the conversation we need to hear.  What we need to hear is if the city should be buying any monument signs at all!  I know, last year's council approved this line item in the budget.  But that's not the point.  This year's council can refuse to spend the $150,000 budgeted for 2012.  Furthermore, I hope this council decides not to spend any money in 2013 for monuments.  Just because something is in the budget does not mean you can't transfer those funds elsewhere.  It happens all the time.

Last year council gave the nod to spend $39,000 on the study of this sign project.  A couple of members on council were reluctant to spend that money, but the item passed.  We have the study completed, but let's sit on it for another year or so and focus on more important items.

Back to the branding.  We had lots of resident input.
See the results HERE.

So what to do?  Ask your council members and mayor to reduce the spending power of the city manager, ask to not install the proposed parks monuments in 2012.  Focus on the simple way-finding signs (police station, library, schools, etc.) but leave the monuments to lavish and art-minded places like Greece and Spain.