Who is really in charge of our city’s direction — citizens? City Council? City employees? Last week Jim Bolland wrote about Total Maximum Daily Load (“Staff should implement policy, not create it”).

Numerous other issues have similar patterns.

It would appear that our new city manager is empowering city employees (often called staff) to set direction regardless of what citizens, and perhaps, even the City Council think. The TDML report was all set to go out and commit the city to a path of action which once submitted to the state cannot be rescinded. This could have cost property owners and the city a great deal of money. As well, it works in the opposite direction of the Sensitive Lands revision Councilor Lauren Hughes has wonderfully led. Does that make any sense? Not to me.

In our city budget the city manager came forward with a whole new approach to the budget for 2014-15. New can be good. In this case, the amount of information available to the Budget Committee and citizens has been reduced significantly. Performance measures which allow comparison to other cities have been almost eliminated. The city manager says he will be using them but they need not be in the budget. Why not? Is that good?

People all over the U.S. are asking for more transparency; people want to know what government is doing. That is good! But it appears we are moving in the opposite direction. Less information in the budget; less time for comments; little attention paid to citizen comments. Look at the TSP for example. There was a near revolt at the Transportation Advisory Board yet member’s questions were not answered. Despite numerous comments from citizens on very specific items nothing changed as the TSP went before the Planning Commission. Only the leadership of Planning Commissioner Brockman saved the day and sent the TSP back to staff for revision. Up until that point the TSP included over $10 million for developing new roads in Foothills? Why? Staff wants Foothills developed.

My question is: will the city manager/staff continue to set their own direction or will City Council “take charge” and direct the city manager and staff to do what council wants done? The City Council is the voice of citizens at City Hall. Staff appears to have their own agenda and it is not necessarily what citizens want and it could cost us. We have seen what City Staff will do if not “controlled” - a good example, LOTWP, the water project. More than double the original cost estimate. Look at your water bills and you see the result and there are more increases to come. It was all based on erroneous information from high paid consultants and city staff who thought they knew what was best for us.

To our City Council and mayor: Please take charge and firmly set the direction. Do not be led around by staff. Remember there is an election coming. The people will speak.

Gerry Good is a member of the Citizens Budget Committee

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