City Commission Retreat Live! (Sort of…)

For much of the day I’ll report live the discussion at the City Commission retreat. Check here every so often for the casual remarks. My own comments will be in italics.

The agenda is here:

You can find yesterday’s presentations at:

Doug Thomas explains the reasons for the City’s approach to financial decisions in the current economic environment.

Don’t forget this meeting is being filmed by LGN, and will be on Brighthouse channel 615 next week.

First up: The city’s orientation video for new employees.

Lakeland Electric is the largest city department…for those who don’t know…the city owns the local electric plant.

The video is promo heavy, but would be interesting to new residents. I’ll check later to see if it available online.

“Getting Your Priorities Straight” 8:35 to 9:20 (or so)

Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian re-introduce their process “From Health to Wellness.” It’s about fiscal wellness, not personal health. Johnson is from Jefferson County, CO.

Johnson points out that their process focuses on city priorities, rather than formulas, or across the board cuts.

“Results driven resource allocation process”

Fabian explains that the process starts by looking at the city’s current health. Evaluate the services provided. Get a better understanding of all services in the context of the cause-and-effect relationship to priorities. Help the city leaders understand the process. Articlate to the people in the city government and to the citizens affected.

(By the way, I’m not going to mention every point. I’ll summerize at times. The goal is to give you an idea if you want to watch the video next week.)

Your goals, your outcomes, need to communicate to the citizens what you think is important.– Johnson

Basically, the priorities need to say: We do “this” because we value “that.”

Johnson explains their process allows the generation of ideas and concerns without debate.

In the Jefferson County example: After goals and outcomes are decided, the commissioners must choose which are the more valuable. (Assign relative evaluation to allow priority decisions to programs.)

To explain the process: city government identifies the primary goals of the city, ranks them, and makes sure government resources are directed toward the priorities. Of course, the government leaders are expected to follow the citizen-identified priorities. That’s why programs like Lakeland Vision and Plan Downtown Lakeland are important.

I’m going to skip the details how the process moves from identified goals to linking programs and resources to goals. You’ll see the details in the video under the section “Getting Your Priorities Straight”

It makes sense that as cities lose budget they get rid of programs that the citizens rank least. Rather than rank departments against departments. Getting rid of 10% of every department makes little sense.

There are “weighing factors” and “multipliers.” The process has the feel that an engineer had a hand in designing this.

Kevin Cook, City Dir. of Communications, asks how citizens give input. It appears that the citizens didn’t give their input until after the County Commissioners had already ranked priorities and strategies. The county did create a website so the citizens could give comments throughout the year.

The process and budget decision making are based more on program cost and less on department costs.

9:42 Doug Thomas succinctly explains the process to the commissioners and the audience.

It’s good to hear Senior Leadership had a workshop on this process in December. This is a process the whole city government would need to understand to make it effective.

Achieving Our Goals? 10:00 to 4:05 (with breaks and split into 5 sections)

The city has invited select members of the community to share their thoughts and ideas. The Growth Management panel is up first.

The Growth Management Goal is: Ensure planning and infrastructure results in quality development and safe, attractive neighborhoods.

Jim Johnson explains everyone answers: what does the goal of growth management mean to you? He says it is a “brain dump.” It doesn’t matter who says what. It’s important to just get out small description. The discussion is then to group the beliefs under common outcomes.

Participants should ask themselves: What is important? What does it look like? Feel like? What are the assumptions?

In about 10 minutes, the participants filled up a large board with their ideas on Growth Management.

The group then gets together and finds categories in the ideas given. This is a common process.

This is not a good process to watch. It’s very participatory. I also doubt at this speed they will fit in all the sections in the time allotted.

That was 10-12 minutes of “brain dump” and 30 minutes of sorting. I’m sure this process will be greatly edited for time when it is on LGN.

There is much discussion the categories chosen.

This process doesn’t fit well with live blogging. I’m going to stop at this point. Later tonight, I’ll publish a summation of the last five sections.

Quality of Live – “Mobility, Public Safety, Partnerships, Health Wellness, Quality Public Spaces, Arts, Recreation”
Governance “The continuous exercise of authority over a political unit.” – prioritizing internal services. There was much discussion as is this a goal or a function. The gist is that the city must also focus on internal services.
Economic Opportunity – Collaboration Partnerships, USFP, Enriched Community workforce, sustainable business environment, incubator, focus on “the core/downtown”, nuture current and small business
Fiscal Management – Privatization, Managing Costs/Productivity, Develop new financial resources,

Quite a few people stayed only for the “Quality of Life” discussion. At lunch, it was said that the arts community knows they are often the first cut in troubled economic times. They must attend meetings such as this to remind city officials that arts are still needed.

The purpose of these exercises? “We’re trying to get to a common understanding of what that goal means.” – Doug Thomas