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