Manhattan Beach residents get early say in budget talks

In most cities, residents give input on their city's budget at the end of the process, after the professionals have drafted and refined it.

But in Manhattan Beach, California, city officials this year asked for – and received – plenty of ideas just as the budget process is getting underway. Around 150 people showed up at March 5 meeting to convey where they want their tax dollars spent. The meeting was facilitated by Management Partners as a part of civic engagement project on budget priorities.

Police and fire services and infrastructure emerged as the top priorities for residents, with parks and recreation and facilities not far behind. Attendees were free to recommend funding increases for budget areas, but they were also asked to name the budget areas that should be cut in order to pay for their proposed increases.

The city also commissioned a survey that reached 400 residents, and it's launching an online engagement tool in April to gather more feedback and ideas.

"What Manhattan Beach is doing is innovative and indicative of the City Council and staff’s commitment to give the community a voice about how their money is allocated," says Cathy Standiford of Management Partners. “In fact, it’s a best practice.”

Attendees told organizers spending on police and fire is about right; they'd like to see more spent on parks and recreation, with funds diverted from environmental services or police and fire. Infrastructure spending is also too low; and many thought too much money goes to internal support services such as City governance, finance, human resources and information systems. Additional polling reinforced the residents' budget priorities, which city officials will use as they draft the 2015-2016 budget.

The evolving challenges of modern fire departments

Media outlets are beginning to pay attention to the way fire departments have changed in the past few decades. We talked with Ned Pettus, special advisor at Management Partners and former fire chief in Columbus, Ohio about how and why fire departments are changing.

Across the country, 70 to 80 percent of calls for service are EMS (emergency medical services). There is a huge transition from fire departments just taking fire runs to what we call all-hazard response. They have to be trained to respond to hazardous materials calls, cave-ins, water rescues, terrorist attacks and especially EMS. Organizations need to be proactive rather than reactive. They have to continuously train and be prepared to handle what you hope never happens.

Depending on the community, there may be large industrial complexes, high-rise buildings, large shopping centers, and you have to be prepared to respond to the level of risk. You determine all the risks and then determine whether you have the resources to address those risks. You may never have a high-rise fire, but residents expect their fire department to be able to respond to one. There are more complexities that come up: natural disasters, train derailments, large-scale evacuations. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

In the performance-review programs we do, we're noticing issues that have to do with discipline, budgetary issues, staffing, efficiency and effectiveness. Departments are looking at opportunities to collaborate more, mutual-aid agreements and ways to reduce redundancy. Fire departments are having to do more with less and at the same time adapt to new technology and advances in communication and operations. The community wants to feel safe, and sometimes it's a matter of perception as to whether the fire department is using its resources the way the community expects.

 

Port Hueneme City Council sets priorities

Jan Perkins, Senior Partner, facilitated a day-long City Council retreat in Port Hueneme on February 26.  The retreat focused on Council teambuilding and setting priorities for the coming year.  The executive team joined in the afternoon to participate in discussions.  Members of the public attended as well.

 

 

Stockton Emerges from Bankruptcy Protection

The City of Stockton emerged from bankruptcy protection this week after more than two years of fiscal planning and cost cutting supported by Management Partners.

“We emerge from bankruptcy a renewed city, perhaps better prepared for our future than any other city in the state,” Stockton City Manager Kurt Wilson said, “with a new value system, a thorough understanding of our operations and finances and the tools to maintain solvency and adjust to economic conditions for decades into the future.”

When Stockton, with 300,000 residents, declared bankruptcy in June 2012, it was the largest American city ever to do so. Although Detroit replaced it a year later, Stockton was able to resolve its bankruptcy without appointing an emergency manager, as Detroit did.

“Stockton’s City Council made all those difficult decisions,” said Andrew Belknap, Management Partners’ regional vice president, who worked closely with Stockton officials and Management Partners colleagues to help create the city’s plan of adjustment. “It shows that democracy can work and the council-manager form of government is strong enough to do the hardest thing a city can do, which is to go into and come out of bankruptcy.”

When it entered bankruptcy, Stockton was $700 million in debt, which U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein blamed on the housing downturn, overly generous pay packages for city workers and debt for new projects. Management Partners built a fiscal model for the city, developed key components of the plan of adjustment, created an implementation plan with milestones, and managed other aspects of the bankruptcy.

The firm also worked with the City of Vallejo on its bankruptcy and is currently helping San Bernardino officials manage that city’s bankruptcy.

2014 New Mexico City Management Association Meeting

At the 2014 meeting of the New Mexico City Management Association last week I presented a session on ethics, focusing in on Tenet 12 of the ICMA Code of Ethics.  Tenet 12 says, “Seek no favor; believe that personal aggrandizement or profit secured by confidential information or by misuse of public time is dishonest.”  The managers had a lively discussion about issues related to gifts being offered to their employees, policies and practices they have in place to guide decisions, and a confirmation that this Tenet is essential for city and county managers.  ICMA Vice President Mark McDaniel (Assistant City Manager of Dallas, TX) also attended and gave an update on ICMA activities.  Other topics at the conference were, “Trust: The Critical Success Factor for a Nation, an Organization, and an Individual” and discussions about New Mexico’s economy.  

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"You did a FABULOUS job on the presentation, the findings/recommendations, and the overall communication effort! It was a pleasure working with you on this vital project. Glendale will be a stronger organization as a result of your report." – Brenda Fischer, City Manager, City of Glendale, AZ

© Management Partners, Inc. 2011