Meyer Report Recommends Undoing Organizational Changes But Doubling Down on Economic Development

City Hall

On Tuesday, we presented that the report from John Meyer on Davis City Hall described a fragile work environment where city staff, in self-described reports, “remain dedicated to public service,” but at the same time “highly critical of some of the methods and style used to achieve budget reductions.”

John Meyer writes, “Indeed, they seem to fully recognize larger economic trends and that expenditure reductions were necessary. However, most individuals were critical of the manner in which budget reductions were communicated and that there seemed to be more outreach with community than with staff.”

Much of what John Meyer recommends is undoing many of the organizational structural changes implemented in the last five years.  However, despite what would appear to be internal griping about the Chief Innovation Officer, John Meyer recommends they double down on economic development or risk losing critical reputation in the region just as it is emerging.

First, he recommends the city reconstitute the parks and community service department. He notes, “As a result of budget reductions and the elimination of the department head position, supervision of the Parks and Community Services Department was assigned to the Human Resources Administrator.”

“To underscore the awkwardness of this arrangement: the Parks and Community Services Department reports to the Human Resources Administrator who, in turn, reports to the Administrative Services Director who then reports to the City Manager,” he continues.

This raises several concerns, he writes. There is what he calls “an awkward process conflict,” as “a Parks employee having a personnel issue or wishing to file a grievance knows that the issue will be appropriately directed through his/her department head. Although, in this structure, the department head is the Human Resources Administrator—a position that should be the neutral official in such cases.”

He argues even if this conflict can be managed, “the City of Davis Parks and Community Services program is of such scope that it should be overseen by a professional in this field.”

Next, he recommends the city formally rescind merger of community development and public works. He writes, “In recent years, the department heads for Public Works and Community Development have reported to a position entitled General Manager. This position was to oversee all development and infrastructure including capital projects. While there is merit in this approach, such coordination never materialized.”

He continues, “By all reports, the individual in the General Manager position was highly productive and helped navigate the water supply and waste water treatment plant projects to success. However, with this position now vacant and the capital projects underway, the city would be better served by these department heads reporting directly to the City Manager and resources from the General Manager position being reallocated to needs within these departments.”

He also suggests that the city evaluate supervisor to staff ratios. He writes, “It is typical in a period of budget cutbacks that staffing reductions are undertaken through a combination of retirements, layoffs and staff turnover. This often results in an uneven distribution of the workforce that is based on chance as much as strategy. This results in a very uneven distribution of workload. Some supervisors have gained a dramatic increase in scope and responsibility and gained more staff.”

He continues, “In other areas, it appears that supervisors have a relatively small number of staff they are assigned to supervise. More striking is that in isolated cases a supervisor (A) then is assigned to a more senior supervisor (B) who has no other units to oversee. There certainly could be other factors to explain this circumstance.

“In contrast to this trend, it appears that the Public Works Director may be supervising too many managers given the scope and complexity of his position. Some of these managers, in turn, do not seem to have responsibility for other staff and could be consolidated into other units.”

Next, he suggests they “[e]xamine value of more flexible position classification system,” noting, “With a reduction in the workforce, it may be that more flexibility and parity should be explored in job classifications.”

He also recommends looking at contracted services, writing, “As part of its budget reduction strategy, many activities within park maintenance are now provided under contract to private firms. Now having some extended experience with this approach, it is timely to review the division of work between city forces and contractors to determine if it is achieving service and budgetary objectives.”

John Meyer suggests enhancing the role of the Deputy City Manager which “is very often cited as a position that employees go to for answers. In addition to overseeing the City Clerk function and assisting with agenda preparation, the Deputy position supervises city communications, promotions, media services and housing programs.” He adds, “The Deputy City Manager may have a role to play in coordinating space planning with a focus on customer service as described later in the report.”

John Meyer further notes that some city council goals are not properly aligned with resources. “The City Council and staff have expended much needed effort on developing a list of goals which can be incorporated into work plans with the expectation that metrics will be developed to measure progress and success.”

He focuses primarily on sustainability and economic development.

On sustainability, Mr. Meyer notes that the council has created a goal in creating “a sustainable community.” However, as the term implies, it is both all-inclusive as well as vague. Moreover, it must involve not just staff but the community and yet currently “this function is staffed by a single sustainability manager.” John Meyer questions whether “the program can make desired progress without additional support.”

On economic development, Mr. Meyer notes, “The current investment in economic development activities may not yet be sufficient to meet defined Council objectives. The Council’s goals are reliant on successful economic development efforts that will result in diversifying the local economy, capturing emerging research-based businesses and improving the tax base. In support of economic development activities, a previous Council created a Chief Innovation Officer position. Not only was the title of the position unique, but originally, partial funding support for the position was to be provided by the business community.”

John Meyer writes, “The interview process revealed some concerns about the salary level of this position and what its actual output has been. While this leads some to question this expenditure, I believe the City should ‘double-down’ on its investment in economic development activities.”

He continues, “The City is developing a reputation of supporting business development. A number of major businesses have chosen to locate in Davis. Should the City now dim its focus and investment in economic development, that action will be broadcast throughout the region by your competitors.”

Mr. Meyer continues, “While our regional leaders are all polite and publically supportive of one another, any move by Davis to reduce investment in economic development activities will be branded as a lack of support and will be whispered by surrounding communities to businesses under recruitment. Davis has assets that other communities envy, but only Davis can tell this story—do not expect others to do this on your behalf.”

—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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41 Comments

  1. Davis Progressive

    John Meyer writes, “The interview process revealed some concerns about the salary level of this position and what its actual output has been. While this leads some to question this expenditure, I believe the City should ‘double-down’ on its investment in economic development activities.”

    this is the first public, official and tangible evidence that i have seen on this and we should be alarmed because it confirms what i have believed for a long time there is a faction that wants rob white out of city hall and perhaps a faction that wants to cut back on economic development all together.

  2. Frankly

    “The City is developing a reputation of supporting business development. A number of major businesses have chosen to locate in Davis. Should the City now dim its focus and investment in economic development, that action will be broadcast throughout the region by your competitors.”

    Mr. Meyer continues, “While our regional leaders are all polite and publically supportive of one another, any move by Davis to reduce investment in economic development activities will be branded as a lack of support and will be whispered by surrounding communities to businesses under recruitment. Davis has assets that other communities envy, but only Davis can tell this story—do not expect others to do this on your behalf.”

    A point I and others have been making repeatedly.  Dally.  Lose focus.  Delay.  Wring hands.  Try to make everyone happy.  Pay lip service without taking action.   Do any or some or all of these things and other communities will take from us what we had sitting in our lap.

    It seems that all or some or most of these things above started after the last CC election, and then more when the new CM was hired.  We have been focused on de minimis issues like bag and MRAP bans… things that help bolster political resumes but do nothing to address sustainability.  The roads are still a mess.  The public pools and buildings around town are still leaking.  We still have a mounting unfunded pension liability.  We still have less than half the businesses and business transactions of any comparable city.

    Economic development seems to be progressing, but from outside city leadership.  In fact, to me, it looks like the majority of city leadership has turned against giving economic development the top priority that it demands.

    1. Davis Progressive

      this was a point that i agree with you completely on.  as i was writing my answer, i was actually thinking where is frankly.  i believe we are at a crucial moment of time and if we ignore this issue, we go back to business as usual to the detriment of our city.  ucd will find a way to develop what they need, it just may not be here or under our control.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i agree with meyer here (and only here) but i am concerned about the part about what the people in city hall doing and reports i am hearing that the city is backing away from economic development and the peripheral innovation parks.

    2. Robb Davis

      We have been focused on de minimis issues like bag and MRAP bans… things that help bolster political resumes but do nothing to address sustainability.  The roads are still a mess.  The public pools and buildings around town are still leaking.  We still have a mounting unfunded pension liability.  We still have less than half the businesses and business transactions of any comparable city.
      Economic development seems to be progressing, but from outside city leadership.  In fact, to me, it looks like the majority of city leadership has turned against giving economic development the top priority that it demands.

      Almost completely wrong, misinformed, and disrespectful of the hard work staff and consultants are doing on a number of levels.  You are wrong about the roads not getting attention.  You are wrong that pools and buildings are getting no attention.  You are wrong about “mounting unfunded pension liability.”  You are wrong about economic development not “progressing.”  You are wrong about prioritization.  You are wrong about the MRAP as something used to bolster political resumes (I have no political resume to bolster and yet I voted to get rid of it and would vote the same today).

      You either have not been paying attention to what has been happening over the past year in Council meetings or you are willfully distorting the record.  Your rhetoric (and DPs) is disrespectful to City staff who is putting in huge amounts of time to go through the mandated EIR processes, the economic studies, the traffic studies, the community outreach, the meetings with applicants and the meetings with City commission related to the innovation parks.

      Your rhetoric is disrespectful of staff and consultant work on myriad projects to improve our public infrastructure and service–from water, to wastewater, to water conservation (state-mandated), to waste removal.

      Your rhetoric is disrespectful of the work of City Commissioners who provide outstanding citizens’ input (like having free consultants) on everything from upgrading our city’s accounting software, to developing RFPs for innovation park economic assessment, to vetting utility rates, to studying creating a more resilient electricity supply, to assessing how to get the most bang for our buck out of increasingly rare transportation dollars… And I could go on.

      Your rhetoric is disrespectful to efforts underway to assess improving broadband (an economic development issue), to better partnership with the University (an economic development issue), to deal with our housing crisis (an economic development issue), to streamline downtown zoning/permitting to spur redevelopment in a  post RDA world (an economic development issue), to work with businesses to find new homes more adapted to their needs (an economic development issue).  And, I could go on.

      You pretend that everything of value happening in the city is being reported in the pages of the local newspaper or this space.  That is not the case.  But you (and apparently DP) make no mention of the many decisions this council has made to move the economic resilience, innovation and sustainability goals forward.  You fail to note how we are using the goal setting to focus our work and the work of staff.  You are apparently ignorant of the efforts to fully determine the underfunded maintenance backlogs so we can begin to more transparently budget for them. Basically, you appear to be ignorant of just about everything we are working on.  Sad really.

      Rather, you and DP make vague accusations that “factions” within city government are doing this or that to torpedo economic development and create a more resilient community going forward.  Pretty thin gruel.  Pretty pathetic.

      Frankly–this kind of rhetoric is toxic to the public discourse and ignores what is happening to create a better community here.  I have seen you (Frankly) state many times in this space that at a certain point people need to decide whether they are going to lead, or they simply need to get out of the way.  What choice are you going to make?  It takes virtually no effort to sit on the sidelines, throw rhetorical stones, impugn unknowable motives and just toss off unsupported and erroneous accusations.  Leadership on the issues critical to the success of this city takes much more than that.

      1. Frankly

        Robb – I think the city needs to invest in a PR and outreach effort.  I am not a political insider, but I am also not the average resident in terms of not know what is going on.  If these are my perceptions (what happened to Rob White, BTW?), then the average resident is certainly not going to know these things you report.

        I am more encouraged reading what you have written here.  Maybe we should have more routine report on the work and progress on these things.  We had been getting that from Rob White up until the new CM came onboard.

        1. Davis Progressive

          “Maybe we should have more routine report on the work and progress on these things.  W”

          i thought he was doing a column in the vanguard doing exactly that, but i haven’t seen it in a few months.

      2. SODA

        Robb

        With all due respect, I suggest some or all of these be mentioned in the Mayor’s Corner column. Right now that venue seems very fluffy and garners no comments.

  3. Anon

    “Your rhetoric (and DPs) is disrespectful to City staff who is putting in huge amounts of time to go through the mandated EIR processes, the economic studies, the traffic studies, the community outreach, the meetings with applicants and the meetings with City commission related to the innovation parks.

    Your rhetoric is disrespectful of staff and consultant work on myriad projects to improve our public infrastructure and service–from water, to wastewater, to water conservation (state-mandated), to waste removal.

    Your rhetoric is disrespectful of the work of City Commissioners who provide outstanding citizens’ input (like having free consultants) on everything from upgrading our city’s accounting software, to developing RFPs for innovation park economic assessment, to vetting utility rates, to studying creating a more resilient electricity supply, to assessing how to get the most bang for our buck out of increasingly rare transportation dollars… And I could go on.

    Your rhetoric is disrespectful to efforts underway to assess improving broadband (an economic development issue), to better partnership with the University (an economic development issue), to deal with our housing crisis (an economic development issue), to streamline downtown zoning/permitting to spur redevelopment in a  post RDA world (an economic development issue), to work with businesses to find new homes more adapted to their needs (an economic development issue).”

    Well said!!!  Because of the negative rhetoric (that is often unjustified and very misinformed) that appears here on this blog so frequently, I have decided to put efforts in more positive venues.  Others I have spoken with agree, and no longer read the Vanguard much, if at all.  Are you listening Vanguard Editorial Board?

    1. Alan Miller

      Translation:  Anon took Anon’s toys and went with Anon’s imaginary friends and traveled to a new magic kingdom and isn’t playing here anymore, except Anon is playing here to inform the kingdom that Anon isn’t playing here anymore.

      1. Barack Palin

        Now tell me DP, how do we really know if the editorial board posts here much?

        I mean with the use of aliases and some posters using more than one sign on how do we really know?

        DP, it’s possible you’re a member of the board, how could we ever know for sure?

         

    2. Tia Will

      Are you listening Vanguard Editorial Board?”

      An interesting question. I can guarantee you that I am listening. I listen to you when you choose to post, and I consider it my responsibility as a member of the Editorial Board to listen to those who think differently about the issues than you do. I also feel that given that my appreciation of the Vanguard is as a place for conversation about issues of importance to the community, it is also my responsibility to speak when I have a different point of view than those that have already been represented.

      The quality of the comments on the Vanguard is entirely up to those who choose to post comments. If you find that there are posts that do not meet your desired standards the best way to address that is to write articles or post the kinds of information that you would like to see so as to lead by example. Of course everyone is free to participate or not as they see fit. However, you will absolutely forfeit the possibility of improving a conversation by leaving it. I am not sure just what you believe the Editorial Board can do to improve the nature of the comments ?  If you have suggestions, as we have requested many times, you can send them to David, or Don, or any member of the Editorial Board.

      Alternatively you could choose to post a list of specific suggestions or guidelines that you think would be helpful. However, a general comment such as the one you made offers no specifics and thus no way to address the lack of quality you are bemoaning.

      1. hpierce

        Matt, think that there are some posters like Goldilocks… they don’t want the board members to post too often, too little, they want it “just right”… kinda’ like asking board members “I’m thinking of a number between one and ten, and if you guess incorrectly, we’ll criticize you.”  I’m not one of them.  You’re there to keep David ‘honest’, and help him define ‘rules of engagement’, but not much else.  Thank you, Michelle, and the others for your unpaid service.

  4. Robb Davis

    Well since I jumped in…

    i thought he was doing a column in the vanguard doing exactly that, but i haven’t seen it in a few months.

    Yup, I was.  It has been a very busy couple of months.  We all work full time outside of CC business and writing has taken a back seat as I have been working on a book, dealing with two time consuming contracts and serving on a variety of County boards that come with being on the CC.  Please consider my response above my “update column” for the month. I will try to do better.

    With all due respect, I suggest some or all of these be mentioned in the Mayor’s Corner column. 

    I am not the Mayor. I do not advise him on his column.  I suggest you take your concerns up with him.  Having said that, Dan’s articles are published in the Enterprise where he is given limited space to summarize a whole host of issues.  David reprints those columns but they are clearly intended for readers less conversant with City issues who seek a general update on City happenings.  They are not meant as analytical or discussion pieces.  They are “updates.”  If the VG wants more information than perhaps someone could be more active in seeking out our opinions/views on issues via an interview process.

    I think the city needs to invest in a PR and outreach effort.

    That’s a joke, right?  Frankly calling on a CC member to increase staff?  Really?  Ahh, but I do note you call it an “investment.” Funny that. When someone thinks something is worth spending government money on they will call it an investment, otherwise it is a waste or a “sinkhole” or something like that.

    We had been getting that from Rob White up until the new CM came onboard.

    Again, David, or any writer for the VG or the Enterprise can interview the City Manager or Council members at any time.  I rarely get asked for interviews.  Both news sources in this town focus on a very limited set of issues about which they write but rarely proactively seek out CC members or staff to go beneath the surface.

    And Robb, it appears you disagree with the Meyer’s report.

    Is this a serious question?  Are you asking “in general” do I agree?  Do I agree with the parts quoted here?  What exactly are you asking?  Ask me a specific question–or better yet, how about David or someone interview me for a VG article.  I am happy to share my views but responding to your question makes no sense because I have no idea what you are asking.

    Because of the negative rhetoric (that is often unjustified and very misinformed) that appears here on this blog so frequently, I have decided to put efforts in more positive venues.

    I understand this sentiment but I still read the VG and will continue to do so.  But, I must be honest, if I were to take time each day to provide the backstory and the fuller context of stories, if I were to address the gratuitous accusations and innuendo offered by commenters, if I were to post or provide links to the critical staff documents, commission reports and data available to inform decisions, I would be doing little else on certain days.

     

    1. wdf1

      Robb Davis:  That’s a joke, right?  Frankly calling on a CC member to increase staff?  Really?  Ahh, but I do note you call it an “investment.” Funny that. When someone thinks something is worth spending government money on they will call it an investment, otherwise it is a waste or a “sinkhole” or something like that.

      Kind of like George Carlin’s definition of “sh*t” and “stuff”.  Stuff is what you yourself value.  “Sh*t” is other people’s stuff that you don’t value.

  5. Anon

    Robb Davis: I understand this sentiment but I still read the VG and will continue to do so.  But, I must be honest, if I were to take time each day to provide the backstory and the fuller context of stories, if I were to address the gratuitous accusations and innuendo offered by commenters, if I were to post or provide links to the critical staff documents, commission reports and data available to inform decisions, I would be doing little else on certain days.

    Well said!!!

  6. Frankly

    That’s a joke, right?  Frankly calling on a CC member to increase staff?  Really?  Ahh, but I do note you call it an “investment.” Funny that. When someone thinks something is worth spending government money on they will call it an investment, otherwise it is a waste or a “sinkhole” or something like that.

    An “investment” is capital put to use to generate returns.  I have no problem spending more for commensurate returns.  Non-business politicos have corrupted the term from its intended business use, so I understand your confusion.

    We are talking about a big deal for the city and its residents.  A big change deal for some.  One way to ensure it’s defeat in a future Measure R vote is to do all the project work without including a PR/outreach plan and/or without people to execute the PR/outreach plan.  This is just project management 101.

    Again, David, or any writer for the VG or the Enterprise can interview the City Manager or Council members at any time.  I rarely get asked for interviews.

    This is a good point.  David, please go interview these people on a regular basis and report back.  That might help prevent Frankly from speculating and also prevent Dr. Davis from slapping Frankly around for speculating!

    Is this a serious question?  Are you asking “in general” do I agree?

    Fair enough…

    “In recent years, the department heads for Public Works and Community Development have reported to a position entitled General Manager. This position was to oversee all development and infrastructure including capital projects. While there is merit in this approach, such coordination never materialized.”

    John Meyer further notes that some city council goals are not properly aligned with resources.

    “this function (sustainability) is staffed by a single sustainability manager.” John Meyer questions whether “the program can make desired progress without additional support.”

    “The current investment in economic development activities may not yet be sufficient to meet defined Council objectives.

    Do you agree or disagree with this general assessment that staffing and organization are inadequate for the stated goals of the city in pursuit of economic development?

     

    1. Tia Will

      An “investment” is capital put to use to generate returns”

      This is far, far too limited a view of “investment” from my point of view. For me investment means something of value ( time, effort, capital, trust….) put forth in order to see an improvement in some aspect of life…either my own or that of another.

      I considered it an investment of my time to read to my children every night no matter how exhausted I was at the end of the work day. I saw it as an investment in bonding, establishment of a family tradition and as a means to encourage a love of reading and learning in my children.

      I give to charities as an investment in the health and wellness of others, not as a means to generate any kind of economic return.

      Many people donate their time again as an investment in the strength of our community socially or psychologically. For many of us, it is not all about the generation of capitol returns. Three is much in this world that simply cannot be reduced to how much money will it bring in ?

      1. Frankly

        My view was not too limited based on your stated point of view.

        An “investment” is capital put to use to generate returns.

        Time is money.  Money is capital.  Time is capital.  Resources are capital.

        “Investment” means you are expecting a return for that which you put in.  If you don’t have any expectations, then it is charity/giving, etc.   If it depreciates, you are not making an investment, you are just spending.  Expenses are not investments if they are recurring and non-discretionary.  Your power and water bills are not investments.  Commitments to pay labor salary and benefits are not investments.

        In my world, every financial (including the use of time and resources that can be assessed a monetary value) decision should require a cost-benefit analysis.  There are both tangible and intangible costs and returns.   There are subjective and objective… quantitative and qualitative… measures for costs and returns.

        You can create a model that assigns a numeric value to things to help with the investment decision.  Or you can say “I am investing in making myself feel better.”, or “I am investing in winning power in politics”.  Of course the issue here is that if you are spending other people’s money they many not value your benefits the same.

        But to claim something is an investment without calculating or identifying the costs and benefits to the investors corrupts the meaning of the word.

    2. Robb Davis

      I agree and I made a similar point in just about every public meeting during my election campaign: when a city (or any organization) makes staffing cuts by attrition, rather than in a strategic way, it typically ends up with a mismatch between its needs and the staffing to meet those needs.  Our challenge now (alluded to by John) is to assess our staffing profile and see where the gaps are.

      Because meeting the challenge of economic development does not reside in a single department (as my earlier comment alluded to), we must assess where the gaps are and figure out a plan to fill them.  If you consider ALL the elements related to economic development I listed in my first “reaction” (and it was reactionary 😉 to your comments, I think it is fair to say that John has correctly stated the challenge. However, economic development is not the only place where gaps exist.

      1. SODA

        Yes, Robb you were very clear in your campaign that you felt a staffing and facility assessment was a priority for you.

        I remember years ago probably during a budget discussion, Don Saylor questioned the org chart of the city in that there were many supervisors, sometimes supervising only one person, layers of supervisors.

        It is clear from John’s assessment that this is true and a by-product of attrition as a method of budget reductions rather than assessing and cutting from needs…..

      2. Frankly

        Ok.  Fair enough.  This makes sense.

        I will share with you my experience with the city of Woodland on the economic development front compared to my experience in Davis.  This is for a business venture I am working on.  Woodland wins.  Davis loses.  Woodland is romancing me.  Davis is giving me excuses.  There is nobody with authority within the city staff that has a role to attract and retain business to the community.  You should strongly care about that problem if you are really an advocate of ED in this city.  Yes there are more pieces and I concede that I was myopic in only focusing on the desert at the end of a complex meal being prepared.  But I guess that is my point.  If we are so busy working in the kitchen that the customer never gets to see, taste, touch the results of the work, most of will not appreciate that work.

        1. hpierce

          Often, in Davis, “attracting business”/ED has meant waiving or reducing impact fees (which means the GF “should” suck it up, but often the enterprise funds did).  The”theory” was/is that the ‘new’ business would generate more revenue.  Yet, see little evidence that the enterprise funds ever get reimbursed.  In some cases, even staff processing fees [GF] were reduced/waived.  The staff did the work, but the City was not compensated for it.  Guess the staff should have ‘volunteered’ their time to attract business.

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