Commentary: Employee Morale is Becoming a Crisis For the City

This week Mayor Dan Wolk and Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis put out a piece that laid out six months of accomplishments, and when they get to employee morale, they write, “With the addition of our new city manager, a new City Council in place and the improving budget picture, employee morale is slowly improving. The council has set this as a goal for 2015 and beyond, and will work hard with the city manager to ensure that the heart of our city government — our employees — beats soundly.”

What they do not tell the public is that we have lost some rising stars in city government already, and we may be about to lose others in the coming weeks and months. I am talking about young, hard-working city employees that the city was relying on for key leadership in the coming years.

One such loss was Bicycle Coordinator Dave Kemp, often known as DK. The city of Davis strives to be the bicycling capital of the world and, in January 2012, it proudly announced the hiring of DK following a nationwide search – that truly was nationwide.

The city’s press release at the time noted that DK spent the last six years developing a comprehensive bicycle program for the City of Fort Collins, Colorado. Under DK’s leadership, the Fort Collins community rose from a silver level designation to a gold level Bicycle Friendly Community and is now poised to attain the platinum level status within the coming year.

The release said, “DK employs a comprehensive approach to bicycle and pedestrian planning, emphasizing a range of techniques to foster the growth of biking and walking for recreation as well as the foundation of a sustainable transportation system. In addition to the development of the traditional 5 E’s (Encouragement, Education, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation), Economy & Community are parts of his strategic approach.”

“One of the key ingredients in planning for and promoting sustainable transportation and recreation options is derived from the strength of the community’s existing knowledge, desires, time, and ambition,” stated DK. He continued, “I will serve as a facilitator to develop the elements of a comprehensive program and bring to the table refined coordination skills and innovative planning techniques in order to meet the needs of the Davis community. I look forward to working with the community as it continues its progress toward becoming a ‘world class’ bicycle and pedestrian friendly city.”

As the League of American Bicyclists noted, “Bicycle and pedestrian program managers are common in U.S. cities and, along with other transportation planners and bicycling advocates, are a critical part of creating a bicycle-friendly community. Staff help communities plan for and respond to the needs of cyclists and pedestrians. An analysis of 40 of the largest U.S. cities shows that cities with bicycle and pedestrian staff have higher levels of bicycling than the cities without staff.”

They continued, “Bicycling program managers institutionalize the consideration of bicycling accommodations throughout transportation departments and other relevant areas of government. State bicycle program managers direct planning efforts, develop and implement projects, ensure design guidelines are followed, and improve bicycling-related policies.”

That very article noted that, in addition to large cities, there are many smaller communities that have bicycle and pedestrian program managers and they cite Davis as a prime example where the coordinator “works with their Bicycle Advisory Commission (BAC) — and the University of California, at Davis, has a campus bicycle coordinator.”

“Together they help make Davis the country’s Bicycling Capital,” they wrote.

On December 14, in his Sunday column, Bob Dunning, rather than lamenting the loss of DK, wrote a column. He wrote that he read about “an ad in this very newspaper a few days ago proclaiming that the city I love is offering $87,467.54 a year, plus benefits, for someone to take over as a “bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.””

The column, dripping with sarcasm, incited Davis resident David Baum to write, “After reading ‘The Wary I’ on Sunday, Dec. 14, stating that the city ‘is offering $87,467.54 a year, plus benefits,’ for someone to take over as a bicycle/pedestrian coordinator – Oops! That’s more like $87,467.52 at $7,288.96 per month (as Bob points out) – the middle finger of my right hand stood up straight and stiff. Hey, talk about digital dexterity, right? Anyway, that’s my two cents’ worth!”

The sad thing is there are probably a variety of reasons we are perhaps about to lose some of our rising stars. One of them is salary. The Vanguard, during the economic downtown, has led the way on pushing back against exploding employee compensation. At the same time, we know from the city manager search that Davis is on the low end of city manager compensation. It turns out the same is true across the board – the city of Davis pays less for a variety of management positions than comparable neighboring cities.

By itself, I think we could get away with that. Davis can be a fun place to live and work. We have an engaged citizenry. A community that cares. A community that has been willing to increase taxes to make sure that city services and school education continues at a high level.

At the same time, however, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, we are in need of a cultural change. No one wants to receive less pay to work twice as hard to get good initiatives passed. No one wants to take abuse in the form of emails, text messages and voice mail on a daily basis over their jobs.

We lost a great city employee, a rising star that was the envy of many communities, and all Bob Dunning can do is mock the amount of money he made and erroneously correct the math.

All David Baum can do is flip people off.

No wonder we’re losing our good employees who no longer are willing to take twice the abuse at less money. I’m happy to hold the line on employee salaries to some extent – though I do think we need to be flexible enough to sign our star employees much as a baseball team has to go over budget to sign key free agents. But to do so, we have to change our culture.

We are on the verge of doing some neat stuff in our community with bikes, economic development, and the like, but not if we keep running off good, young employees.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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104 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    No one wants to receive less pay to work twice as hard to get good initiatives passed.

    No wonder we’re losing our good employees who no longer are willing to take twice the abuse at less money.

    Ah yes, we’re supposed to believe that our employees are working twice as hard and taking twice the abuse all for less money.  With the job market the way it is today I’m sure we can find replacements who would love the jobs and salaries that the city is offering.  It seems to me that the Vanguard is more and more starting to fall in line with the new perception coming from our city council that the employees need more compensation.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      The Vanguard is increasingly concerned about who we might lose. And the column this morning very pointedly goes the direction away from compensation increases.

      1. Barack Palin

        But think of the possibilities of who we might gain.  Maybe getting rid of unhappy whiny employees and bringing in fresh new rising stars who are more than happy to have a good job with more than adequate pay is just what our city needs.

        1. David Greenwald

          The people I am worried about, I consider good employees, I don’t think we’ll get better employees.

          It was a real eye opener for me to see emails where employees were berated with insulting and degrading emails on a daily basis, at times by people they have to work with.

        2. Barack Palin

          The people I am worried about, I consider good employees, I don’t think we’ll get better employees.

          First off, you have no way of knowing that we won’t end up with better employees.  Where do you think your reference to “rising stars” might come from?  New, fresh, happy employees and not the whiners who are unhappy with their jobs and pay.

          1. David Greenwald

            I didn’t say I knew or didn’t know, I said I didn’t think.

            I also will add that the characterization of employees as whiners is part of the problem.

        3. Barack Palin

          I also will add that the characterization of employees as whiners is part of the problem.

          Not characterizing all employees as “whiners”,  just the ones who are obviously actually doing the whining.  Getting a bad email is all part of the job of any city employee in any city anywhere.  I’m sure it’s not unique and only in Davis.

  2. Tia Will

    I am speaking only for myself and not as a member of the Vanguard editorial board.I want to reiterate this point because their is a wide variety of opinions on the issue of city employee compensation. The following is mine alone.

    I have very little tolerance for those who are not willing to pay for what we receive. I make exception for those who genuinely cannot afford to pay as I do not believe that anyone should have to move out of Davis because they cannot afford their taxes. But for those who are established, have sufficient funds to provide housing and the essentials for their families and still have a little left over for recreation, I want to draw on the long held principle espoused by many on the political “right” of personal responsibility. If we want a service, we should be willing to pay for it. We should not be either foisting it off on the next generation nor should we be depending on someone who might want to have a business here to bail us out. Our choice. Our obligation.

    With the job market the way it is today I’m sure we can find replacements who would love the jobs and salaries that the city is offering.”

    We probably could find “replacements”. The question is could we find replacements with the same knowledge, drive, and established record as DK ? For those who do not value promoting alternative transportation including the use of bikes, I can see how this salary might seem like a a waste of money. To me, with my view that alternatives to the private automobile are our future and the sooner that we make the kinds of changes that will allow people to make healthier transportation their norm, the better off we will be as a society, it seems like a very good investment in our future.

  3. Anon

    “Getting a bad email is all part of the job of any city employee in any city anywhere. ”

    It goes way farther than bad emails.  The abuse the city employees take at the hands of ordinary citizens is really quite unbelievable.  City staff are called liars to there faces or worse by members of the public at public meetings.  City staff are consistently accused of malfeasance either outright or by snide innuendo.  City staff (and consultants hired by city staff) are publicly humiliated by being told how to do their jobs, by citizens who have absolutely no expertise.  One city employee told me she spends so much of her day doing nothing but fielding phone calls from citizens who feel entitled to free services, citizens berating the city and city employees for not providing a high level of service for free.   Members of the public (including former City Council members) have no hesitation to disrupt meetings, harass staff to distraction so it costs the city enormous amounts of money and doesn’t allow city staff to get on with the jobs they were hired to do.  In short, many members of the public feel it is their prerogative to be extremely uncivil, rude, arrogant, disruptive, harassing, etc. towards city staff to get their way.  The result of this unacceptable behavior is the loss of extremely good employees, who would rather go elsewhere than to have to put up with such nonsense.

    1. Barack Palin

      Anon, are you saying the things that you posted are unique only to Davis?  If so, why do you think a mostly liberal open and supposedly tolerant public would treat public employees worse than in other cities?

      1. hpierce

        Your key words “open and tolerant” are WAY off the mark.  Look at the activists who believe they (and their opinions) are God’s gift to humanity, and will say anything, malign anyone, particularly City employees, because they’re not getting what they want, when they want it, in the manner they want it.  Oh, and on the cheap as well.

        And certain folks, including Pinkerton and your beloved DK, believed it was more important to pacify/cater to  the “activists” and “citizen whiners”, than to do what is best for the community.  Self-promoters.  Many key City staff moved on or retired early, because of the toxic environment, compounded by ‘community’ demands to “take a haircut” (and thank and tip the barber, to boot).  The big exodus started in 2010, and the next big wave will be late 2015.

        A very vocal part of the community would LOVE to have new staff who only cater to their every whim, and stewardship/professionalism be damned.  Just look at some of today’s posts.

         

      2. Anon

        “Anon, are you saying the things that you posted are unique only to Davis?  If so, why do you think a mostly liberal open and supposedly tolerant public would treat public employees worse than in other cities?”

        Yes, I believe the bad behavior by the public is unique to Davis.  To be honest, I am not quite sure why.  Perhaps part of it has to do with so much intelligentsia in town with oversized egos because of UCD.  Or it just may be something peculiar that has evolved over the years.  But the environment for some Davis city staff is extremely toxic.  Why should any city employee have to spend half of every day explaining to members of the public why they cannot expect to get city services for free?  Why would anyone in their right mind think they should get something for nothing?  Why should any staff member have to tolerate being told how to do their job by hypercritical members of the public who have absolutely no expertise in the area the employee/consultants are expert in? Why should a staff member have to put up with being verbally abused (such as being called a “liar”) by members of the public during a public meeting?  Why should members of the public feel entitled to disrupt meetings when they don’t get their way?

        Yes, we have a very pro-active community, that is engaged in the process of government.  But it has really gotten out of hand, to the point of anarchy at some public meetings.  The city has actually made national news with some of the nonsense.

    2. PhilColeman

      The quoted remark and Anon’s response reveal much to the discussion of how city employees are perceived, and how they respond to this perception. It goes to the very heart of the dynamic of Davis City Employee morale.

      To dismissively say city employees get bad E-mails everywhere is only marginally true, if at all. Frequent and extensive discussions with city employees over many years conclusively show Davis employees receive far more abuse than their counterparts. Other city employees operate in relative anonymity. And there is a past history of shameful council behavior towards city staff, although it pales in comparison with the local school board.

      To put this topic in it proper context, we should refer back to an earlier topic of the “elitist” sentiment of the Davis citizenry. I don’t agree with the magnitude of the elitist characterization, but it does exist. Nowhere can it be better found in how so may citizen feel Davis is Utopia and city employees should feel privileged to even work here. Yet, any privilege working in Davis is compromised by the condescending manner on how city workers are treated by the elitists, particularly city employees with public exposure, and who deal with controversy not of their own making.

      This attitude also fails to note the below pay-scale rate Davis employees receive denies them the opportunity to reside in Davis’s costly environment. But maybe that dismissal at the end of the workday is part of the mentality of dismissing “staff” when their chores are finished. Adjacent cities become servant quarters.

      Skilled municipal workers of every stripe in any skillset, are prized commodities, particularly at the managerial level. The State Retirement System gives them the ability to be professionally mobile. To blithely say, if you don’t like it here–leave, is hardly the attitude we should convey to coveted city employees who give so much for so little (apologies to Churchill).

      1. South of Davis

        Phil wrote:

        > To dismissively say city employees get bad E-mails

        > everywhere is only marginally true, if at all.

        I know people that work for Davis as well as cities in the east bay and SF Peninsula.  Davis has some elitist jerks but a MUCH lower percentage than most “upscale” Bay Area towns  where there are many richer people who are harder to work with than even the worst Davis PITA…

        1. hpierce

          e-mails can be deleted.  Key staff have had to put up with public, verbal abuse, where their professionalism, knowledge, ‘motivations’ have been maligned.  Often from the dais, at Commission and City Council, televised, meetings.  Is that true in the East Bay or Peninsula?  If so, does that make it right?

        2. Anon

          hpierce: “Key staff have had to put up with public, verbal abuse, where their professionalism, knowledge, ‘motivations’ have been maligned.  Often from the dais, at Commission and City Council, televised, meetings.”

          Exactly – it has been atrocious.  I don’t blame city employees, especially upper management, moving elsewhere, just to get out of such a toxic environment where city employees are publicly humiliated on a regular basis – almost as if it is a sport.  I know one person in upper management that took a less prestigious position/lower pay rather than continue to put up with the abuse that was being flung at him by the public in Davis.  I have also watched spiteful citizens actually take joy from the pain and discomfort they are causing with their abusive behavior.

      2. Biddlin

        You said it all, Phil.

        “…To put this topic in it proper context, we should refer back to an earlier topic of the “elitist” sentiment of the Davis citizenry… it does exist. Nowhere can it be better found in how so may citizen feel Davis is Utopia and city employees should feel privileged to even work here. Yet, any privilege working in Davis is compromised by the condescending manner on how city workers are treated by the elitists, particularly city employees with public exposure, and who deal with controversy not of their own making.”

        I know of cases where an employees have been publicly verbally abused, while they were performing their duties.

        This attitude also fails to note the below pay-scale rate Davis employees receive denies them the opportunity to reside in Davis’s costly environment. But maybe that dismissal at the end of the workday is part of the mentality of dismissing “staff” when their chores are finished. Adjacent cities become servant quarters…”

        The living wage issue is a biggie. Working in a town where yopu are a shareholder,instead of hired help, makes better employees.

        “Skilled municipal workers of every stripe in any skillset, are prized commodities, particularly at the managerial level. The State Retirement System gives them the ability to be professionally mobile….”

        As the economy staggers to its feet, communities that lost skilled employees in the recession’s race to retirement are now looking to hire replacements.

        ;>)/

      3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        PC: to coveted city employees who give so much for so little

        Whoa! It is just incorrect to say that any of our management employees–meaning those who are actually running programs and managing employees below them–are making “so little.” Almost all of them have total compensation of well over $200,000 per year. They also get a tremendous amount of paid time off for holidays and vacations, and if they are managers, they get to cash in every January an extra check for “management leave.” (I inquired in early 2013 to see how many actually cashed in this benefit and how many took 2 extra weeks of vacation, on top of the 5 paid weeks they already get, and the answer was zero. They all take the cash, which is not reported as regular salary, even though it is.)

        Dunning scoffed at what he thinks is an excessive salary for the bicycle coordinator job, $87,467.54 a year. But what Bob never mentioned is that this job likely comes with a total compensation (including medical, retiree medical, pension, Medicare, etc.) of $150,000 or more. To my mind, that is not “so little,” unless you are comparing it to what our managers get.

        1. hpierce

          They all take the cash, which is not reported as regular salary, even though it is.

          Too bad PERS doesn’t see it that way… would add ~4% to retirement income.  Management leave is meant to compensate managers for their expenditure of over 40 hrs a week to accomplish their work, as they do not get overtime.  Some managers have put in much more than  42 hours/week (4%), others haven’t.

          The City gave employees an extra week of vacation, in lieu of a 2% salary increase, years ago.  Many at the time would have preferred the salary increase, and some refused the extra time, for a couple of years, in protest.  Now, nearly every employee counts on the time off, but sure there are still some who would gladly trade the time for salary.  Your point about the number of managers who “cash out” illustrates this. [BTW, most employees can ‘cash out’ one week of vacation/year, and many do so.]

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Too bad PERS doesn’t see it that way… would add ~4% to retirement income. 

          HP, I don’t know if this income is PERSable or not. Either way, when the salary for a job like a department head in Davis is listed publicly, the number shown for salary should include that extra paycheck, since no one takes the extra time off.

          Management leave is meant to compensate managers for their expenditure of over 40 hrs a week to accomplish their work, as they do not get overtime.

          I realize that is what these very highly compensated employees say when they draw up their own contracts. However, in my opinion, a total annual compensation package worth $200,000 (at the low end) to $300,000 (in the case of the CM) should “compensate managers for any hours over 40 per week.” I am unconvinced this group needs even more compensation.

          Perhaps because you are a city employee–or used to be–you don’t have any idea how many managers (and other workers*) in corporate America, who often make much less in total comp than public service managers, work 75 to 80 hours every week and get no overtime and no management leave for it, and they also don’t get 3 weeks of paid holidays and 5 weeks of paid vacation and they don’t get any pensions, etc.

          *A buddy of mine is a long-time computer engineer project manager for Cisco Systems. He has put in 10 to 12 hour days, 7 days a week for years, getting no overtime. I don’t think any city employees ever work that much. And on an hourly basis, they get a lot more money.

  4. South of Davis

    Tia wrote:

    > I have very little tolerance for those who are not

    .> willing to pay for what we receive.

    Just like there are few people that call the city to complain to staff there are few that get a good value for what they pay.

    I know many that would be happy if we got rid of ALL city employees and let the county manage fire, planning and law enforcement.

    This scares a lot of people who feel that we need an army of highly paid people here in town telling us how to recycle and telling shops what kind of bags to use or soda to serve kids…

  5. Michelle Millet

    I never got the chance to meet DK, but from what I understand he was hardworking, productive,  and well liked, the City of Boulder, where I believe he went, is lucky to have him.

    1. hpierce

      Have you talked to the folks in Fort Collins?  I have.  They describe him as affable, and liking to promote and take credit for the works of others.  His background is more in PR (salesman/self-promoter) than in engineering or planning.

  6. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I never got the chance to meet DK.

    My brief encounters/work with DK were mixed. We had different points of view on a project I was working on, getting some bike routes in Davis named for people who played a significant role in originally establishing the first bike lanes in our city in the 1960s (which were the first such lanes of their type in the United States). Fortunately, I prevailed and he seemed to have accepted that and moved on. … In a different circumstance, I thought DK did a good job, after a rough start, with making the new configuration of First Street work better. And while I don’t know exactly what his role was with 5th Street, I suspect he worked on that and I think all in all it is a good outcome and he likely deserves his share of praise for that.

    What I am not really convinced of is that the City needs a person in his position on a full-time basis. Given our limited resources, I think we would do just as well to have someone in public works with a civil engineering background (like Roxanne Namazi) coordinate any necessary changes on a part-time basis. I think the leadership for our bicycle infrastructure program should go through the BAC, and input there from groups like Davis Bicycles! and other members of the public should be encouraged.

    1. hpierce

      I agree, Rich.

      If you look at Davis history, it was not “bike/ped coordinators” who made the biggest strides.  It was community based citizens (not single topic folks), and PW engineers, some planners, who did the heavy lifting.  Having a “feel good” bike/ped coordinator was not necessary, but we had one grounded in both engineering AND planning, who was not “flashy”, but she actually contributed more in her tenure than either her predecessor or successor.

  7. Frankly

    As a corporate manager with 30+ years experience dealing with the challenges maintaining a positive can-do, high-customer-service, work culture in times of declining budgets, I have developed a very robust set of principles dealing with employee moral.

    The first principle is to not let moral slide.  It is like surfing a wave… keeping the workforce used to a level of performance tension without letting it go to stress.  When you fall behind the wave… either developing a too low performing workforce, or too stressed workforce… then you have to “paddle” like crazy to catch up.  And the paddling includes some actions that will make your job as a manager much less enjoyable… and cause YOU the stress that you strive to prevent your staff from experiencing.

    The second principle is that a small minority of employees can be toxic to the overall health of the work culture.   Especially senior employees that carry a lot of influence.  They can set the tone for attitude and orientation to the work… especially any new challenges of work… that corrupt new workers.

    A third principle is the need for quality and stable management.  Just having turnover at the top ranks causes stress and gives employees a feeling of insecurity that translates into negative attitudes about their work and job.  Thank the CC for chasing away Pinkerton… it is responsible for some of the drop in employee moral.

    A fourth principle… and this is key… is that employee expectations for reward tend to rise with their achieved reward.  This is a natural human tendency… it is why the billionaire pursues the next billion.  It is why a very well compensated city employee will begin to complain loudly when they don’t get pay raises… even considering that their well-qualified replacement would be extremely satisfied landing a job paying less.

    A fifth principle is that repairing a broken work culture generally requires ridding the workplace of the problem employees.  The definition of a problem employee is any that do not convert to the performance behaviors demanded to turn around the work culture to one that consistently demonstrates high customer service and a can-do attitude.

    You cannot repair a broken work culture damaged by low employee moral by just paying employees more money.   You can only mask those problems for a time… but they just keep resurfacing.   There is an equilibrium for market compensation and market job performance expectations.  Any organization that wants to have a healthy workforce and work culture needs to pursue that equilibrium while also striving to perform at top levels.  Anything more or less is a sign that management will begin to fall behind the wave and struggle to catch up.

    1. Don Shor

      The only thing I would add to this excellent analysis is to reiterate that paying more does not improve morale. It is fine to identify and address a serious morale problem so long as that does not get conflated into ‘we need to pay more’.
      Changing workplace morale starts at the top. Pinkerton did some things that needed to be done, and that wasn’t popular or fun. Now Dirk Brazil gets to rebuild the trust and confidence of the employees. That doesn’t mean pay increases.
      If people are being abusive at public meetings, it is the job of the elected official running the meeting to set and enforce standards of civility. If it’s happening in private contacts, it is the job of the city manager to address inappropriate and uncivil behavior directly with the citizens perpetrating it.

      1. Anon

        Don, talk to the Chief of Police in Davis (or the City Attorney), and ask him/her how much the Chair of a meeting can control the antics of a member of the public who is determined to disrupt a meeting.  I guarantee you will be surprised at the answer.

    2. Alan Miller

      Frank Lee,

      Sounds like you have only worked in the private sector (not criticizing, and of course I am speculating).  I have worked in University, State, Owned a Small Company, worked for private firms, contracted personal services.  Your analysis works in the private sector where a manager has control over pay, hiring, firing , incentives.  A bureaucracy is by nature almost always toxic, and often unfixable even by well-meaning managers due to structure and the perversion of incentives.

      “You cannot repair a broken work culture damaged by low employee moral by just paying employees more money.”

      True.

      I would add to that you can’t fix low employee moral by “asking” the public to “be nice” in emails and at public meetings.  Oh wait, maybe you can!  I have an idea, instead of hiring a bicycle coordinator, let’s hire a “city employee email and public comment filtration coordinator” (CEEPCFC).  The job of this employee would be to designate city employees as “good” or “bad”.   Critical emails would be hidden from sensitive, “good” employees who cannot handle criticism but get their job done (in the view of the CEEPCFC).  “Bad” employees would see all emails, and the CEEPCFC would also create harshly critical emails from fake citizens in an attempt to make “bad” employees cry.

      At public meetings, the CEEPCFC would have the power to stop citizens from speaking if they criticize a “good” employee, and further have the citizen taken out of the meeting and shot, dispose of the body, the “bad” citizen never be seen again.

      After all, we can’t have our city employees criticized; they might quit.

      And to all a good night!

      1. Don Shor

        I would add to that you can’t fix low employee moral by “asking” the public to “be nice” in emails and at public meetings.

        Yes you can. The mayor can enforce decorum at public meetings, and the city manager can deal directly with abusive behavior directed at staff in emails and on the phone. Managers should always support their employees in the face of inappropriate behavior directed at them. I would not allow anybody to be abusive to my staff, and neither should the people who run the city.

        1. Alan Miller

          Since no one has given examples, there is no way for anyone here to assess whether anything is abusive or just critical or even deserved.

          Would the public be forbidden in public meetings for criticizing reports from employees that a member of the public did not believe was accurate?

          Would the City Manager screen all emails before the employee reads them?

          Would the City Manager write back to abusive citizens and tell them to pretty please, be nice?

          How exactly does this work in your world?

          Apparently, several people in this forum, who may be anonymous city employees for all we know, expect us to believe, with absolutely no evidence, that employees are being abused, and they have no agenda in saying so, solely on their word.  And furthermore, because they know so, and this is Davis and we as a community are supposed to feel bad about “ourselves” because we are racist and uncivil and bad, that “of course” and “we know” that it is worse here then elsewhere.

          Prove it.

        2. MrsW

          Good manners are free.  It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to remind each other to be grateful and appreciative.  I, for one, have been impressed numerous times by City employees this year.  I think I’ll write some emails and tell them so!

        3. Alan Miller

          “I think you are really underestimating the toxicity of the environment the city has to deal with here.”

          Seriously, that’s your answer to “prove it”?  Exactly what part of  “prove it” don’t you understand?

          I have seen nothing that proves anything, nor any examples.  I’ve only been asked to take the word of people who’s opinions I don’t respect enough to take at their word, or believe anonymous people who could be anyone, or have an agenda, or even be a city employee.

          I call BS on this whole thread.

          “Good manners are free.”

          Incompetence is also free.

        4. Barack Palin

          I’m with Alan on this one.  I believe this is all being trumped up as a way to try and get city employees more pay at a time when our city can least afford it.

        5. Frankly

          There are always going to be difficult customers.   But in general, I think customers reflect the attitudes of the employee providing the service.

          I might need a home resale inspection soon and I am dreading it.  This is a place I have owned 25 years and I am sure that I am going to heat up when the inspector doles out his code compliance demands that will end up costing me thousands for stupid things pushed by the nanny state.  Will that inspector demonstrate empathy, or a disconnected “I don’t give a shit about your problems” attitude?  Because if the latter, the inspector will actually earn his experience with a hostile customer.

        6. Frankly

          40 percent of your kitchen lights have to be florescent or LED.  But you can’t just have florescent or LED bulbs.  You will need to tear out those lights and replace them with “certified” florescent or LED lights. If you change your kitchen or bathroom counter-tops you move to a more current code enforcement level.  For example, in your bathroom you might need a new $300 humidity pump fan that will cost you another $500 to have installed considering that your ceiling drywall will need to be ripped out to replace it.   And you don’t have enough power receptacles. And your smoke detectors now have to be AC and linked. And this is too close to this and that and has to be moved.

          The list goes on and on and on.

          You need a permit to change out your broken oven or microwave even if you just pull out the old one put in a new one and plug it in.

        7. Barack Palin

          Don Shor

          Why does that “boggle the mind?” You need a permit if you change the electrical or plumbing.

          I bought a new house that was pre-wired for two fans and pre-plumbed for a water softener.  So when I was told I’d still have to pay for permits to install fans to pre-wired boxes and a permit for a water softener to pre-plumbed outlets yes it boggled my mind.

      2. Frankly

        Alan Miller – I have worked in both… and it is the reason that I am so vocal in opposition to public sector unions.  In a modern, competitive, best-practice-required business world a company can succeed or fail based on the quality of its workforce.  And when I say “quality” there are a lot of things that go into that… including things like employee moral and teamwork.  You can hire moderately skilled smart people and develop them to be highly effective assuming you have enough of of those “things”.   But one key thing is having a very strong direct relationship between management and employees.  Unions tend to make that nearly impossible.  Public sector unions even more so because of the politics and media attention.

        I have another principle based on my experience.  I call it the eight-year itch.  I think in general any quality employee will get bored after eight years of doing the same job… unless that job can be injected with enough variety and new challenge.  I am constantly looking for signs of boredom and burnout with my high performers, and in some cases I will actually push them into a new role because I know them and see change risk-aversion and a desire to boost motivation competing in their heads… with risk aversion likely winning unless I do something.  I am constantly designing and tweaking career path opportunities so the young hot-shots I hire stay excited about the future.  It is all part of the management/leadership function of surfing the wave of high employee motivation so that your organization can accomplish great things.

        I am down on public sector work precisely because I do understand the challenges you mention.  You cannot apply best-practice organization leadership principles to public sector work.   This understanding also leads me to absolutely opine for smaller government.  Government should get out of the business of direct end-user service delivery where-ever possible and shift to public-private partnerships where the government becomes excellent contract managers.

        But back to the challenge at hand.   When moral falls low enough, the job of management becomes pretty stressful to get it back.  Because management will have to cut and trim those employees that cannot “get it” quick enough for the required changes to the work culture.

        I would not worry too much about the city losing good people because there are a lot of good people out there looking for work and they c0uld provide a beneficial shot of creativity and a can-do attitude.  And think about it this way… if you are an employee with low moral, there is a morale argument to be made to cut you loose.   You spend more time at work that you do with your family and friends.  It is cruel to keep someone working that is unhappy doing their job.   If you cannot get that person turned around in a reasonable amount of time, you do them and the organization a favor by cutting them loose.

        1. Tia Will

          you do them and the organization a favor by cutting them loose.”

          You do them no favor if there are not other jobs available. That is just a pretty rationalization for not giving a damn about them.

           

        2. Alan Miller

          Frank Lee,

          “I have worked in both… and it is the reason that I am so vocal in opposition to public sector unions.”

          I am a member of a public sector union, and  that is why I am so vocal in opposition to public sector unions.  I disagree with about nine in ten of the political positions they take, and I find most of their tactics ultimately self-destructive.

          Conversely, I agree with about 90% of your rant.

  8. jrberg

    Several people have mentioned the Bicycle Advisory Commission (BAC).  The BAC no longer exists.  A new commission, the Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission has been formed to advise on all aspects of transportation, including parking.  The new commission has met twice since formation.

     

    1. Miwok

      Several years back I called the Bicycle guy at the UCD Police Dept. He talked AT me for a while, but had no input to anything unless someone was full of Grant money. If the Program for the City was the same it is all hot air.

      Was the salary paid for by the City or some grant for DK?

  9. Anon

    Alan Miller: “Since no one has given examples, there is no way for anyone here to assess whether anything is abusive or just critical or even deserved.”

    Yes, I have given a number of examples of abusive behavior by citizens.  Go back and reread my posts.  It gets pretty specific without naming names.

    1. Alan Miller

      I can remember one example where a citizen spoke at a City Council meeting this last year where I considered them “over of line”, and I’ve been to a lot of meetings this last year and often stay for the whole meeting.

      I don’t remember the topic, but it was a young guy from an outside agency that just gave a presentation, and I think he ran the agency and was new in the position.  The woman turned to him, harshly criticized his stewardship and said something like everything had broken down since his predecessor left and he had taken over, with some pretty choice words.

      The rule of addressing only the council having been enforced would have helped here, but it could not have been stopped in advance in any way I can fathom.  The woman’s anger and personal attack didn’t help her case.  Furthermore, I have no idea if she was correct or not.  Maybe she was the first to expose publicly a real problem.  Or not.

      That’s the only case I can recall, though I’m sure there have been others.  But then again what is appropriate or not is largely in the eye of the beholder, and where the line is crossed is certainly in the eye of the beholder, barring extreme examples.

      Still, however, there are no examples of email abuse that we have seen to determine if this is a real issue or not.  Are not all City emails public and therefore could be requested by the Vanguard for publication through a FOIA request?  If this problem is as toxic as is claimed, perhaps the only way to expose the problem is to publish the examples.  The names could be omitted, but the tone and content would certainly be there for all to see.

  10. Anon

    Alan Miller:
    “I think you are really underestimating the toxicity of the environment the city has to deal with here.”
    Seriously, that’s your answer to “prove it”?  Exactly what part of  “prove it” don’t you understand?
    I have seen nothing that proves anything, nor any examples.  I’ve only been asked to take the word of people who’s opinions I don’t respect enough to take at their word, or believe anonymous people who could be anyone, or have an agenda, or even be a city employee.
    I call BS on this whole thread.

    The first comment was directed at Don Shor’s comment, not yours Alan.  It has to do with the order the comments were posted in.

    If you doubt the toxicity of the environment city staff has to put up with, then you have not been paying attention at City Council/commission meetings.  Secondly, much of the abuse also takes place behind closed doors, but subsequently spills over into public meetings.  If you start attending enough of these public meetings, you will definitely not be able to miss the abusive behavior. Thirdly, start talking to city staff after the abuse occurs for more context. Usually the abuse in public is only the tip of the iceberg.

    1. Alan Miller

      “The first comment was directed at Don Shor’s comment, not yours Alan.  It has to do with the order the comments were posted in.”

      Fair enough.

      “If you start attending enough of these public meetings, you will definitely not be able to miss the abusive behavior.”

      I think if you ask any of the City Council members, in the last year I am probably in the top ten attendees of City Council meetings.  I don’t see it.

       

      “Thirdly, start talking to city staff after the abuse occurs for more context. Usually the abuse in public is only the tip of the iceberg.”

      I’m not saying there isn’t any “abuse”.  I still have nothing to say if what you or they consider abuse is just someone not agreeing with them, or deserved, or part of the job.  Attempting to control the behavior of citizens seems a exercise in futility.  Are we completely leaving out “growing a thick skin” as a more practical solution?  I don’t see our City employees as delicate petunias.

      Isn’t a toxic manager or boss a far more likely cause of employee stress than citizens emails?  After all, citizens can be ignored.  One’s boss cannot.

  11. Anon

    “I’m with Alan on this one.  I believe this is all being trumped up as a way to try and get city employees more pay at a time when our city can least afford it.”

    Some of these employees are leaving for jobs that pay LESS, just to get away from the toxic environment.

    “I’m not saying there isn’t any “abuse”.  I still have nothing to say if what you or they consider abuse is just someone not agreeing with them, or deserved, or part of the job.  Attempting to control the behavior of citizens seems a exercise in futility.  Are we completely leaving out “growing a thick skin” as a more practical solution?”

    Apparently you don’t attend enough commission meetings.  City staffers are called “liars” to their face.  Members of the public have no problem attempting to disrupt meetings on purpose.  City staff are accused of malfeasance, much of the misbehavior caught on tape.  City Council meetings are tame in comparison to what goes on in some commission/committee/task force meetings.  But some of it has also gone on in City Council meetings, as well.  You must not have been paying attention.

    1. Alan Miller

      True, I attend far fewer commission meetings.

      But again, examples please.  I’m open to viewing examples on city videos if a link and time are cited.  Telling me I’m not paying attention at council meetings really isn’t helping you make your point.  It just makes me suspect you see abuse at a much lower level, or you are a city employee.

      I wish to make it clear I am for the most part quite happy with the city employees I have interacted with over the years.  I’d give most of my interactions four or five stars.  I am rather appalled that the tone here is that city employees can’t handle criticism.  If they are confident in their work, I would think they would just see jerks as jerks, and leave it at work.

      1. Matt Williams

        I attend a fair number of Commission meetings and with the exception of water issues, I haven’t seen the pattern that Anon is pointing out. So here is a list of the Commissions with their Staff Liaison, and other than the highly controversial Herb Niederberger, who was moved on to greener pastures, I simply don’t see a single “beleaguered” staff member on the list. Water indeed does have a triple whammy with Niederberger, Sue Greenwald (as a demanding public commenter) and Mike Harrington (as a general pot stirrer) … as well as colorful characters like myself, Elaine Roberts Musser and Donna Lemongello. But other than water, I just don’t see what Anon is describing.

        Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission – Staff Liaison: Brian Mickelson, Assistant City Engineer – Transportation Manager
        City-UCD Student Liaison Commission – Staff Liaison: Stacey Winton
        Civic Arts Commission – Staff Liaison: Carrie Dyer, Community Services Supervisor
        Finance and Budget Commission – Staff Liaison: Kelly Fletcher, Budget Manager
        Historical Resources Management Commission – Staff Liaison: Ike Njoku, Planner/Historical Resources Manager
        Human Relations Commission – Staff Liaison: Kelly Stachowicz, Deputy City Manager
        Natural Resources Commission – Staff Liaison: Mitch Sears, Sustainability Manager
        Open Space and Habitat Commission – Staff Liaison: Mitch Sears, Sustainability Manager
        Planning Commission – Staff Liaison: Bob Wolcott, Principal Planner
        Recreation and Park Commission – Staff Liaison: Christine Helweg, Community Services Superintendent
        Senior Citizen Commission – Staff Liaison: Maria Lucchesi, Community Services Supervisor
        Social Services Commission – Staff Liaison: Danielle Foster, Housing and Human Services Superintendent
        Tree Commission – Staff Liaison: Robert Cain, Parks & Urban Forest Manager
        Utility Rate Advisory Committee – Staff Liaison: Herb Niederberger, General Manager Utilities, Development & Operations

  12. Davis Progressive

    the vanguard isn’t calling for more pay…

    the city of Davis pays less for a variety of management positions than comparable neighboring cities.
    By itself, I think we could get away with that. Davis can be a fun place to live and work. We have an engaged citizenry. A community that cares. A community that has been willing to increase taxes to make sure that city services and school education continues at a high level.
    At the same time, however, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, we are in need of a cultural change.

    it’s calling for a cultural change.

    1. Alan Miller

      How?

      Hiring a city employee email and public comment filtration coordinator?

      Just saying we need to change “our culture” is not a solution.  Telling citizens what to do accomplishes nothing.

      I still have no examples.

      Either this is being cause by incompetent employees who deserve to be criticized, or it is being caused by uncivilized jerks who harass employees, or both.

      I have from this entire thread had no examples, and therefore nothing but the word of people who insist they are right, to make any sort of call on this.

  13. TrueBlueDevil

    Paying a total cost of close to $150,000 for a bicycle coordinator seems like overkill to me, I’m sure current staff and citizens can fill in the gaps.

    The question is, how many more nonessential jobs does the City of Davis and DJUSD have?

    1. jrberg

      I am appalled that commenters on this site cannot do basic research, and that they believe what Bob Dunning says about anything.  The posted salary range for this position is $71,959.68 – $87,467.54.  Nobody gets hired at the top of the range.  Secondly, DK brought in $5 Million for the City last year.  How many citizens could write grants like that?  Certainly, if current commenters think they can, please apply for the job.

      Finally, the transportation planning staff at the city consists of very few people, and they are pretty much consumed with their jobs.  They can’t take on this job description in addition to what they already do:

      Coordinate the development and implementation of a City-wide pedestrian and bicycle program; promotes bicycle/pedestrian mobility and safety. Review projects for compliance with City plans for non-motorized transportation. Plan, design, and assess facilities; review and recommend policies and programs. Compile and analyze planning and design data. Prepare and distribute educational information and promotional activities to the public. Require knowledge of the principles and practices of planning and design related to bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

      I will repeat…if you think you can do this, either apply for the job, or volunteer to do it for free, which Rifkin apparently thinks is possible.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Berg, your diatribe is wrong in at least two respects. First, you are wrong entirely to say that “nobody gets hired (by the City of Davis) at the top of the range.” In fact, more than half start at the top of the range. The two main factors are the salary you were making at your previous job and number of years you’d worked. Certainly, if you are fresh out of the police academy, and you are hired as a patrolman, you start at the bottom of the range. But if you are more experienced, you will make at least the maximum amount in the range (or they will make it higher if possible, as was done with Dirk Brazil, and previously was done with Steve Pinkerton, and has been done with others). Second, I never said the bike coordinator job should be “done by a volunteer for free.” I said that I think the leadership (on improvements in our bicycle network and infrastructure) needs to come from the BAC and the public, and ultimately the city council, and the administration of what is decided can be handled by someone like Roxanne Namazi, who is a civil engineer in public works who manages traffic safety questions. I don’t think the administrative duties of the bicycle coordinator should be a full-time gig. It should be part of an engineer’s job.

    2. Tia Will

      TBD

      how many more nonessential jobs does the City of Davis and DJUSD have?”

      Well, the key question here is what is defined as “nonessential”. From our posts in the past, I think that we can rest assured that if we were to each draw up our own list of non essential positions, those lists would have significant variation. So whose list do we choose?

  14. Matt Williams

    On a different, but related topic, when the death of Floyd Fenocchio was reported last week, one thing that came across loud and clear was that the job of DJUSD Superintendent has been filled by short tenures.   The list below sows that this is not just a recent occurance, but rather has existed consistently since 1970.  The expression “You are only as good as your first mistake” would appear to apply to senior management positions in Davis, both at the City and at DJUSD.
    .

    1. hpierce

      Matt… suspect that school superintendent tenure is similar to that for City managers.  Old rule of thumb was that 5 years as City Manager was the mean.  May still apply, don’t know.

       

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        When my uncle, Fred Davis, retired as the City Manager of Chico, about 22 years ago (he is now 90 years old), he was the longest serving CM in California. He had been the City Engineer, and then the Director of Public Works in Chico before he was moved up to be the CM in early 1959. He stayed on that job for the next 33.5 years. Like a lot of retired public agency executives, Fred then worked as an interim city manager (or interim county administrator) until he was in his early 80s. He also did post-retirement consulting work. While he was fairly compensated, it is true that City Managers, adjusting for inflation, made about 33% as much as CM’s are paid today. Same thing is true with school superintendents and with university chancellors. In fact, if you adjusted for inflation, James Meyer, Emil Mrak and Stanley Freeborn combined made less money per year than Linda Katehi makes.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          There was a show on NPR about the rising costs of college. A caller offered this: when a UC candidate says that they’ll make $7,000 more or $12,000 more to teach in Cleveland or Amarillo, why do we feel the need to match those salaries? You can live in California and make 5% less, or stay in Cleveland, it’s their choice!

  15. Anon

    DP: “it’s calling for a cultural change.”

    I agree.  Citizens need to start being more reasonable, more civil, less arrogant and should not feel entitled to something for nothing.  But how to get the citizenry to do that is the huge question.  One problem I see is that too often “the city” will cave to those with the loudest voices, the ones that threaten initiatives, and use other such unsavory practices.  But who exactly is “the city” that caves?  City staff?  City manager?  City Council?  I think it might be appropriate for the City Council and City Staff to collaborate on how best to handle difficult citizens, especially those members of the public who are known for repeatedly disrupting meetings, engaging in napalm tactics to get their way, and the like.

    “I attend a fair number of Commission meetings and with the exception of water issues, I haven’t seen the pattern that Anon is pointing out. So here is a list of the Commissions with their Staff Liaison, and other than the highly controversial Herb Niederberger, who was moved on to greener pastures, I simply don’t see a single “beleaguered” staff member on the list. Water indeed does have a triple whammy with Niederberger, Sue Greenwald (as a demanding public commenter) and Mike Harrington (as a general pot stirrer) … as well as colorful characters like myself, Elaine Roberts Musser and Donna Lemongello. But other than water, I just don’t see what Anon is describing.”

    Water rates were an extremely contentious issue.  So was the surface water project itself, as was the sewer project.  So was the Cannery, the plastic bag ban, fluoridation, and many others. Remember the fight about traffic from West Village, where the police had to be called in and some vitriolic citizens removed because the entire meeting got completely out of hand?

    1. hpierce

      The time I speak of, and perhaps Anon, were 2006-2012.  Pervasive ‘attacks on staff’ in that time, public, city commissioners, and CC, when staff’s professional advice ran contrary to what the ‘attackers’ wanted.  Also, questionable [at the least] by several CC members who tried (generally unsuccessfully) to coerce senior city staff to ‘bend the rules’ for their friends/constituents.  Without going thru the CM, nor department heads.

      Remnants remain in public comments and other sources, including this blog.  The City staff who have “tough skins”suggest other city staff (with thinner skins) not to read this blog.  The most dedicated City staff believe they are serving the community to the best of their ability (in many cases, substantial).  They may well ‘bleed’ when they are characterized as opportunists/incompetents/liars/pawns, etc..  Ironically, those that ‘just don’t give a damn’, and plug along at mediocre efforts (it’s a ‘job’, as opposed to ‘career’ or ‘calling’), are pretty much immune to taking offense at the “slings and arrows”.  A few of the high achievers actually do have “thick skins”, but that is not a gift everyone has.

      Alan, would be glad to have someone give you specific examples of CC member coercion , if my friend agrees, and can transmit it to you “off-line” to this blog.  My address is hortensepierce@yahoo.com.  My friend doesn’t want ‘collateral damages’ to occur to current city staff in being specific in a very general forum.  Not 100% sure you would be trusted by my friend, based on statements you reportedly made to City staff, in a ‘public’ forum, in regards to the use of the Amtrak station and parking.  My friend says they were present at some of those meetings.

      1. Anon

        There is a definite problem with giving very specific examples of what has been going on in regard to how city staff are treated.  I am not about to do it, for the sake of the people involved, just to satisfy Alan’s curiosity/skepticism.  And by the way, I am not in any way, shape or form a city staffer or aligned with city staff in some way.  And yes I choose to remain anonymous.

        IMO if someone has doubts about the way city staff are mistreated by members of the public, then they just haven’t been paying attention, or are part of the problem themselves.  Some of the abuse has been in public, on television, and in the media, which is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

        I find it interesting that hpierce puts the timeframe for this phenomenon at 2006-2012.  I can tell you it is still going on, as we speak.  It was particularly intense recently (last 2-3 years).  It will be very interesting to see how the new City Manager handles things, and if anything changes.  What I do know is if the citizens who are particularly obnoxious are consistently given their way, it gives them all the more reason to remain obnoxious.

        1. Mark West

           What I do know is if the citizens who are particularly obnoxious are consistently given their way, it gives them all the more reason to remain obnoxious.

          Who is giving them their way?  The same staff who are complaining?

           

           

        2. Tia Will

          Anon

          IMO if someone has doubts about the way city staff are mistreated by members of the public, then they just haven’t been paying attention, or are part of the problem themselves.”

          Although I do not have the opportunity to attend most commission meetings due to my day job, I am a frequent attendant and/or viewer of city council meetings and I am also a little baffled by your claim of pervasiveness of abusive behavior. We have seen with previous city council’s some very hostile behaviors between city council members, and we have seen some very strongly worded comments from city council members to staff that the staff members had not done what was asked of them by the city council, the latter of which , I believe is appropriate. With the exception of the water issue including rates and fluoridation, I really have not seen the kind of disruptive behavior that I would characterize as abusive.

          This leaves me wondering, as is Alan, if your definition of abuse may not be set at a lower level than is mine. While I understand thoroughly the issues of confidentiality, it does leave me in the same quandary in which I used to find myself when Sue Greenwald was on the city council and used to refer to her not to be named “experts”. The problem of course is when an individual will not be named, or speak out themselves, is that one has no way of assessing the validity of the claim.

        3. Alan Miller

          “I can tell you it is still going on . . . ”

          No, you can’t, and you won’t.  You can only tell us that you can, which is not the same as actually doing so.  Site a quote, a link, a video, an example ANYTHING, please!!!  Cuz I don’t know what you are referring to.

          1. Matt Williams

            Alan, I will provide a couple of examples for you, although it wasn’t really an abuse of staff. At a water rate URAC meeting earlier this year Sue Greenwald asked the Chair if the URAC, Elaine Roberts Musser, for more than 3 minutes for her public comment. The Chair refused that request, and when the three minutes expired Sue kept on talking and Elaine started banging her gavel, and for the next two minutes the Valente Room of the Senior Center was full of raised voices and gavel bangs. That example didn’t really affect staff though, but the second example did. Specifically, when Herb Niederberger attempted to truncate the URAC meeting minutes and block the tape recording of the URAC meetings for the public record, URAC member Jan Troost actively and vocally voiced his strong objections to both the morality and the legality of Mr. Niederberger’s unilateral action. If I remember correctly, Jan Troost said that what Mr. Niederberger was doing was tampering eith the public record. I am sure that Mr. Niederberger left that meeting with feelings that match what Anon has described.

        4. Alan Miller

          “At a water rate URAC meeting earlier this year Sue Greenwald asked the Chair if the URAC, Elaine Roberts Musser, for more than 3 minutes for her public comment. The Chair refused that request, and when the three minutes expired Sue kept on talking and Elaine started banging her gavel, and for the next two minutes the Valente Room of the Senior Center was full of raised voices and gavel bangs.”

          Matt, I was at that meeting.  It wasn’t abuse, it was a mix of highly entertaining and hideously annoying.  I thought they both embarrassed themselves, I doubt either one care, neither would yield to the other, and it was quite clear there is no love lost between them.  Those are two strong and stubborn women, and no one was injured in the making of that film.

          “Jan Troost said that what Mr. Niederberger was doing was tampering with the public record.”

          I wasn’t at that meeting.  Unless I am missing something, isn’t that an example of  “maybe they deserved it”?  Isn’t truncating the minutes a pretty extreme measure that should be questioned?  I have no dog in that race, but my point is maybe sometimes people react strongly for a legitimate reason.

          Thanks for providing examples, Matt.  No one else did.

          In neither case do I believe anyone should have been shut down, and I doubt a call for a “cultural change” would have changed the behavior of any of the colorful personalities mentioned.

          Think about those people; think of two more stubborn, annoying Davis citizens (if you think of me, I will accept the badge).  If anyone has a realistic plan of how to tone down these powerful personalities that doesn’t involve powerful, involuntarily injected narcotics, lay it out there for us.

      2. Alan Miller

        “Not 100% sure you would be trusted by my friend, based on statements you reportedly made to City staff, in a ‘public’ forum, in regards to the use of the Amtrak station and parking.”

        And this goes to my point.  I and another person helped find and work out the original agreement on the satellite parking for Amtrak patrons.  I helped city staff recently in locating key documents and connections on what was possible for the Amtrak lot.  Yet you imply I would not be “trusted”.  What is probably going on is the person doesn’t like my opinion or care to hear facts I pointed out that person wished did not exist.

        This isn’t about sending me some emails for my judgement; that proves nothing.  The point is I believe what is happening here, what this article and most of the rhetoric here is about, is the desire to shut down those with whom we disagree.  Seldom do people see fault in the tactics of those we agree with politically, unless they are so extreme as to hurt the cause itself.

        1. Mark West

          I wonder how much overlap there is between the people complaining about abuse and a toxic work environment and the one’s who have been operating with a personal agenda that is contrary to the desires and dictates of the City Council and/or City Manager. I’m not sure you can call it abuse when you get called out for failing to do your job, when in fact, you have failed to do your job.

           

        2. Alan Miller

          “I’m not sure you can call it abuse when you get called out for failing to do your job, when in fact, you have failed to do your job.”

          Bing-F-ing-O.

          As I’ve stated several times, I pretty much have have great experiences with 90%+ of city employees, and have working dialog with several for many years.

          Mostly, when I ponder your quote Mr. West, I think of Sacramento city government.

    2. Matt Williams

      Water rates were an extremely contentious issue. So was the surface water project itself, as was the sewer project. So was the Cannery, the plastic bag ban, fluoridation, and many others. Remember the fight about traffic from West Village, where the police had to be called in and some vitriolic citizens removed because the entire meeting got completely out of hand?

      Regarding water, do you really think if you asked Dianna Jensen whether the water process was worse than she expected it to ob, that she would say, “yes”? I seriously doubt she would. One of the major reasons that the Water Advisory Committee was created was because of the contentiousness of the issue. Water is a contentious issue throughout the State, why would you expect it to be any less contentious in Davis?

      Regarding sewer, any contentiousness actually came from the dais, and the questions that Sue Greenwald asked led to the establishment of a process that led to the reduction of the cost of the sewer project from $240 million to approximately $90 million. Sue can be excoriated for a lot of things, but the sewer project was not one of them … and I doubt that Michael Lindquist got very many calls or e-mails from Davisites other than Sue.

      The process that led up to the approval of the Cannery was the antithesis of contentious. The Community Development Department staff very deftly orchestrated hearings for the Cannery EIR by virtually every City Commission, as well as the Cool Davis Coalition and the Valley Climate Action Center … over fifteen such meetings. Once those transparent, open, thorough reviews were completed it was very clear that there were “10 pounds of sugar (community needs/wants/desires) but only a 5 pound bag (ConAgra’s and New Home’s pocketbook). The near unanimous approval by the various civic/citizen groups approving the final Cannery deal is a testament to collaboration rather than contentiousness.

      Fluoridation was handled almost wholly within a process as well. Elaine Roberts Musser probably took the brunt of any contentiousness rather than staff. When you compare Davis’ fluoridation process with Portland’s, which was going on at the virtually same time, which would you prefer?

      How many years ago was the West Village fight? 10? 15? 20? Also, wasn’t the focus of that fight UCD’s staff? Who on the City staff was beleaguered by citizen complaints during that process? I personally missed that particular chapter of Davis history.

      What I sense from the examples that you cite is that you feel that the right and proper thing for citizens to do is to hold their tongues and let the staff and electeds make decisions for them. Am I reading that right?

  16. Anon

    Mark West: “Who is giving them their way?  The same staff who are complaining?”

    Nope.

    Tia Will: “Although I do not have the opportunity to attend most commission meetings due to my day job, I am a frequent attendant and/or viewer of city council meetings and I am also a little baffled by your claim of pervasiveness of abusive behavior.”

    Much of the abusive behavior takes place in commission/committee/task force meetings and behind closed doors.  hpierce has offered to enlighten Alan on some of it, and has confirmed what I am saying is true.  You are certainly free to doubt the two us, that is your prerogative.  But I am confident in what I am saying.

    Matt Williams: “What I sense from the examples that you cite is that you feel that the right and proper thing for citizens to do is to hold their tongues and let the staff and electeds make decisions for them. Am I reading that right?”

    No.

    1. Matt Williams

      No

      Good.

      So if we step back through the fluordation hearings, in what way do you think the citizens on either side of that issue were abusive to staff (Dianna and/or Herb)?

      Similarly, with respect to the sewer plant upgrade project, in what way do you think the citizens (other than sitting Council members) were abusive to staff (Michael Lindquist and/or Bob Clarke and/or Stan Gryczko). Note: there: there is an excellent timeline document available at http://archive.cityofdavis.org/pw/wastewater/pdfs/Wastewater-Project-History-final.pdf

      Also similarly, with respect to The Cannery process, in what way do you think the citizens were abusive to staff? Even more than the water and sewer examples you cited earlier, your seeing the Cannery process as abusive to staff is the most surprising.

      Cirling back to your “no” answer, how would you have liked the citizens in those processes to have modified their behavior?

        1. Matt Williams

          City Council members are the employers of the staff. In the case of the sewer plant project the movement of the project cost from $240+ million down to $approximately $90 million would be another answer. It did not appear at the time that any of the other City Council members saw spending the $240+ million as a matter of significant concern. Sue chose to look under the covers and report what she saw. The Tchobanoglous Charrette confirmed her findings.

          Water is in a world of its own. Other than Herb and Jacques, who on the water staff do you believe fit your description? Dianna understood the contentiousness of the water issue when she signed on as the staff liaison, and I don’t think that there was any time in the process where it exceeded her expectations. I suspect, but do not know, that she had more issues with fellow members of staff than she did with members of the public.

        2. Alan Miller

          I assume this is in response to one council member who called out a staff member and said they did not do what was asked of them, in a city council meeting, with noticeable irritation.

          My first question is, did the staff member do what was asked?  I don’t know, I’m asking.

          Second question, did you support the staff member politically on the side they took?

          If so, could your view that the staff member was abused have to do with the effectiveness of the attack by the councilmember, be in “proper” in your eyes or not?

          Would you have felt the same had the political side of the issue been reversed, but the persons the same?

          I don’t know the answer to these questions.

          But my implication is clear:  I believe the perception of abuse increases when someone’s own “ox” (staff member with agreeing political position) is being (verbally) gored.

          1. Matt Williams

            I forgot about that incident Alan. Brett Lee definitely did call out Herb Niederberger from the dais in those discussions of the Publicly Owned Utility possibilities on that occasion (those occasions) for failing to provide the promised information.

  17. Anon

    Matt Williams: “City Council members are the employers of the staff.”

    So employers can be abusive, and its okay?

    Matt Williams: “I suspect, but do not know, that she [Dianna Jensen] had more issues with fellow members of staff than she did with members of the public.”

    LOL

    Alan Miller: “Second question, did you support the staff member politically on the side they took?”

    I never support staff members politically.  I either agree or disagree with them, period.

    Bottom line, people can agree to disagree, or ask why, and remain civil.  But abuse is never acceptable in my book.  For instance, to blatantly and without warning accuse a city staffer of professional malfeasance, without any evidence to back it up, in an open public meeting, is unacceptable.

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