PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE CITY MANAGEMENT Scenarios July 16, 2012 1. Service Delivery #1 A citizen walks in the office during the summer. She is sick and tired of her neighbor not mowing his lawn. This is the 4th time he has had to come in to City Hall this summer to complain. She shouldn’t have to come down to City Hall every time the neighbor’s grass grows too long. Why do we pay you people just to sit in City Hall and drink coffee all day long? I pay my taxes – take care of this situation. A person comes in to city hall & is very upset because his neighbor keeps complaining about his grass. Just because his neighbor is retired & he mows her grass every time it gets above 2” is no reason to impose her standards on everybody else. He works 40 miles away and he’ll get around to mowing his yard when he has time. 2. Service Delivery #2 You have received a a citizen complaint about a neighbor’s (residential) property that has a bunch of junk cars in the back yard. You have forwarded the complaint to the city employee who handles nuisance complaints. The employee investigates and confirms there are indeed 6 junk cars in the back yard of this property in a residential district. In checking the property ownership records, it turns out the property owner and resident is a council member. What do you do? 3. Staff Effectiveness #1 You are a clerk in City Hall. A citizen is calling about a street drainage problem she had called in and complained out about two weeks ago. You check with the Streets Department and find out that nobody has checked into this problem or done anything about it. What do you tell the complainant? What do you tell the Street Superintendent? 4. Staff Effectiveness #2 You are at a council meeting. During the “citizens presentations” portion of the meeting, a group of citizens speak about traffic safety concerns at a particular intersection. In response, a council member states to the residents (and to the news media) that he agrees with the citizens’ concerns and goes on to categorically state the intersection in question is unquestionably the most dangerous intersection in town. You are very familiar with the accident history in the community and you know there have been very few accidents (personal injury or property) at the intersection in question. What do you say (if anything)? 5. Management of Public Funds - #1 It is the middle of the fiscal year and you have completed the revenue and expenditure reports for December. In reviewing the reports, you notice that Police Department expenditures – which accounts for the largest share of the General Fund budget - are way more than 50% of the Department’s total annual budget. Several line items are particularly high – overtime and vehicle operating expenses (fuel and oil). What do you do? 6. Management of Public Funds - #2 It is still the middle of the fiscal year. At a council meeting, a neighborhood group comes in to complain about the condition of their street. They want their street replaced as soon as the weather breaks. The city’s engineer says this project would cost approximately $250,000. No money has been budgeted in the current budget for this project (or any other street project). Several of the council members discuss the project and agree with the residents that the project should be done right away. You are the City Clerk - what do you tell the council and the neighborhood residents? 7. Management of Public Funds - #3 (a) The City Council has budgeted $250,000 for street repairs for a particular location. The city’s engineer presents the plans and specifications for the project at a council meeting and announces that his cost estimate for this project is now $350,000. City Council does not seem perturbed about this and agrees to move forward with the project. What do you do or say (if anything)? (b) The City Council takes bids on the project and the low bid is $500,000. What do you do or say (if anything)? 8. Human Resources You are the City Clerk and you supervise two other clerks. These clerks do not get along – not only do they not talk to each other but they bad-mouth each other to other city employees and even citizens when the other one is not present. They both do good work for you – you have no complaints about the quality, quantity or promptness of their work. What do you do – if anything? 9. Strategic Leadership As Deputy Clerk, you attend every council meeting in your community. In your opinion, and in the opinion of many of your fellow employees, and many citizens in town, the Mayor and City Council are struggling. They will endlessly debate trivial issues, such as stop signs and backyard chickens, but they do not discuss the major issues facing the community. One day, the Mayor takes you to coffee and expresses his dissatisfaction with the council’s lack of attention to the city’s big issues. The mayor asks you - “just between us” – what you think should be done to address this concern. What do you tell the Mayor? 10. Communication #1 You are a clerk at city hall. A citizen has called in to complain about a neighbor’s tree limb hanging over her property line. He wants the city to do something about this problem. The tree and the branches are all on private property. The city council has directed that the city will not get involved in issues involving private property. What do you tell the citizen? 11. Communication #2 You are the City Clerk. The Mayor walks into your office and informs you he met last night with a neighborhood group and promised them he would lower the speed limit on their street. He wants the speed limit signs on the street changed from 35 mph to 25 mph. You tell the mayor that he does not have the authority to change speed limits – that requires an ordinance that must be approved by the council. The mayor says he promised the neighborhood. He wants you to visit the neighborhood and tell them what happened. What do you tell them? What do you do? 12. Communications #3 City Council recently lowered the speed limit on a street from 35 mph to 25 mph. The police have been very active in enforcing this new speed limit have issued many tickets. You are a clerk at City Hall and you have been receiving many calls regarding this issue. What do you say? 13. Democratic Principles One of your Council members tells you that there has been a lot of e-mail communications back and forth between the Council Members regarding an upcoming controversial item on this week’s agenda case. In addition, the applicant has been visiting the Commissioners one-on-one to discuss the case with them. What do you do? 14. Integrity A local restaurant has changed owners and the new owner wants to start serving alcoholic beverages. They are requesting a liquor license. Your city code requires that businesses serving alcoholic beverages must be located at least 300 feet from any church. The restaurant in question is located 200 feet from a church. (This is the reason they had never had a liquor license before). You contact the restaurant owner and tell him that you cannot recommend approval of the liquor license to the City Council because it does not meet the requirements of the City Code. . The next day you are visited by the Mayor who tells you the new restaurant owner is a friend of his, the proposed project is the type of investment in the community that the mayor is encouraging, and urges you to re-consider and recommend approval of the liquor license. What do you do?
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