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Sunday, January 07, 2007

If the City Could Do Just One Thing Differently in 2007 …

Clearly, there is much room for improvement in the manner by which the City conducts its business and treats its citizens – especially the ones with whom it does not agree. The last year in particular was replete with action and lack of action, and statements and lack of statements that leaves much to be desired. Asking for changes in all of the City’s shortcomings would be wishful thinking.

But there is just one thing seems benign while at the same time would go a long way to making better decisions, to healing the community division and to regaining the trust of the constituents.

And that just one thing is simply for the City to act only after all the facts are clearly known and independently verified.

Facts that are clearly known and independently verified are not the statements emanating from the special interest groups seeking something from the City. Facts that are clearly known and independently verified are not statements from the special interest groups seeking something from the City that are parroted by the City staff.

How many times have we sat through city council meetings to hear the councilpersons disagree amongst themselves as to what something meant, state emphatically that not all of the facts are known, make strong statements like “its voodoo”, and nonchalantly take the spin from the usual suspects (the real estate clique, developers, vendors, the local pizza guy, etc.) as “facts” – and then vote! How utterly inappropriate and quite frankly, being outright unwise and obtuse, its embarrassing.

Is this one thing merely a call for hiring more “experts” to give “expert” opinions? Would this one thing lead to – as we say in the engineering world – analysis-paralysis? No.

This community is unique in that there are an appreciable number of concerned citizens that have a great amount of experience and knowledge and time on their hands. These citizens can be called upon – as recently done with the water-main break – to provide independent information to the City. This community is unique in that there are two independent non-political devoid of hidden agendas professional organizations that are a wealth of information and whose intention is simply what is best for the community.

But there are committees inclusive of citizen involvement that vet the issues. Really? And then why is there so much confusion and lack of information at the most critical point in the process – when the council votes?

The detractors to the suggestion of relying on citizen/community organizations for information will of course raise the specter of bias by these citizens and groups. But such an objection is puerile. A minor challenge in research is weeding out the facts and eliminating the biases from the gathered information. Anyone with a modicum of secondary education, or even anyone that uses the internet, knows how to do this weeding quite easily and readily. The City could do the same.

And assuredly there are those that for lack of understanding will proclaim that soliciting too much information will delay the process of governing. Fortunately, that is not the case, and in fact, quite the opposite is true. Anyone who has implemented a project from nascent concept, to gathering the requirements, to analyzing those requirements, to designing the solution, to modeling the implementation, knows full well that the end product will be better and delivered much faster when there is more information at the onset by which to base the analysis and design. Omitting some fact out from the requirements has a deleterious effect on time and quality when that fact has to be considered/implemented ex post facto. The STRP and the asbestos nearsightedness are perfect examples on how projects were rushed to deployment without having gathered and appreciated the necessary requirements. Let’s not repeat these (and other) debacles.

So, doing this one thing is easy. The net effects of making exceedingly well informed decisions will be substantial. And such an approach will go a long way to earning a greater involvement from the community – a community that is in dire need of being all inclusive.

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