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Old Nov 15, 2013, 01:17 PM   #1
63dot
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Personally righting a wrong (politically)

I live in a small town of just 1,600 residents who have found it upon themselves to break off into two ideological camps of pro-business and pro-resident. But this probably describes any city that's small.

Anyway, we had a terrible city manager who was so pro-business that he kind of messed things up alienating half the populace here and during an alleged series of personal faux pas, citizens (like me) rose up and got the guy fired. We were in such a hurry that we didn't take time in finding a proper replacement.

In a move to get a new person we found a pro-resident guy that was just as ideological as the last guy but more messed up in the day to day workings at city hall. At least the last city manager understood this thing called budget. The new city manager and his key assistants all live hundreds of miles away and basically phone it in not realizing the delicate balance of a 1 square mile village.

From the pressure of the 100 or so involved residents, like me, we are worse off and probably headed into the red like most local cities. It's not the fault of the city managers, or the city council, but with true fault falling on the vocal citizens (like me) that basically and traditionally have bent those civil servants every which way.

It's a classic frying pan to fire scenario.

What to do?
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 01:30 PM   #2
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How in the world could you elect a city manager who don't even live in the same town?

And I disagree with you that it isn't the fault of the city managers, council, etc. They are the ones who made the decisions that led you to the mess you are in. Yes, you and others have whined and complained to get the things you want, but in the end your elected officials approved these things.
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 01:37 PM   #3
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How in the world could you elect a city manager who don't even live in the same town?
Good question!

We voted in a new city council, they hired a new city manager and things were OK for a short time and everybody thought that the new internet age could make things real time with northern California village being run by southern California man.

The problem happened when this outsider, 250-300 miles away, found he didn't know anybody to be his two assistants so he hired a couple of friends from southern California and all hell broke loose. In a big city fashion that the city manager and his two assistants knew (which worked there), the simple and corporate thing to do was downsize. But with such a small town and everybody either intermarried or related, feelings were hurt and if not fired, key people quit in disgust.

I can say we didn't know this outsider would do this, but nobody background checked him and the typical style of running large city down south versus rural northern California town that tends to keep everybody on and work together. Many in small northern California despise the big town politics of San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco but then city council here picks a guy from a major southern California city and we get big city politics and slash and burn policies. Again, major layoffs and frequent changes work well in large cities, but this is a small town.

It was our shortsightedness to find somebody to replace alleged ladies man former city manager and now we have a much bigger problem and bad fit. With one firing in 18 years due to budget issues, you don't go in and let go ten people in two years without pissing off the whole town. The new city manager can argue that because we kept everybody on for so long, we acquired a huge debt down the line and city needed to go from 128 people to what will be maybe 50 people. But now the fewer people all make way more money so nothing was saved. I guess this is how you do things in major cities.
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 01:43 PM   #4
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My brother-in-law is the financial manager of a mid-sized California city.

He's looking to be a city manager.

I'll just charge a minor finders fee.

Oh ... and he grew up [as did I] just a few short miles from your town.
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 04:26 PM   #5
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I'm not sure I understand the difference between pro-business and pro-resident. Are the business owners/employees/customers/stakeholders not residents as well?
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 05:33 PM   #6
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I'm not sure I understand the difference between pro-business and pro-resident. Are the business owners/employees/customers/stakeholders not residents as well?
Our small town has a few homes in east end, a small downtown section a few blocks long, then more houses to the west. The town is touristy and busy three months a year but the residents, who resent tourists for the most part, are here all year around.

Tourist area is clean and new but residential section is in disrepair and residents pay the taxes that keep it going.
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 05:39 PM   #7
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Why is there resentment of tourists?
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 05:46 PM   #8
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Our small town ...
My top three guesses ...

Graton

Occidental

Monte Rio
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Old Nov 15, 2013, 08:50 PM   #9
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Why is there resentment of tourists?
I think when we pay the taxes and it's funneled into the tourists, and not the local sports center/workout (closed) or youth center (nearly dead), it's kind of a pisser.

That being said it's the tourists that put us on the map and we would be otherwise ignored and be like Healdsberg, Elkhorn, or Marin City. The money that comes into town is the tourists so it's a fine balance. You just have to live with potholes, covered stop signs, or old painted lines in the road if it's not the tourist section of town.
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Old Nov 16, 2013, 03:54 PM   #10
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In a big city fashion that the city manager and his two assistants knew (which worked there), the simple and corporate thing to do was downsize.

Again, major layoffs and frequent changes work well in large cities, but this is a small town.

It was our shortsightedness to find somebody to replace alleged ladies man former city manager and now we have a much bigger problem and bad fit.
In late 2001, I was working for a company whose business depends on the convention and travel industry. When travel slowed to a crawl, so did our business. Management got together and gave themselves pay cuts and pay suspensions, rather than laying people off. This went on for nearly a year before business fully returned and the company was stronger for it. In the recession before that, another company I worked with, of similar size had a similar challenge and did the opposite. Layoffs are not exclusive to big companies, they are exclusive to bad managers. No competent manager wants to fire proven, hardworking people.

As I read your descriptions, I can't help but draw comparisons to larger regional and national politics. There's a belief that those with personal proclivities will have professional ones. In practice, they are often mutually exclusive. That is to say, the best managers and politicians can also have the messiest personal lives. And as demonstrated here, insisting on moral perfection can come with other (higher) costs.

You've also got the classic problem of governance. How do you get a group of people (of any size) to agree on the same solution. Everyone in town has their own interests and when as is often the case that those interests clash, how do agree on a single outcome? The previous manager created so much controversy that replacing him seemed to be the answer. But he was obviously doing something right.

You've already stated that tourism is important enough that it makes your town better than the comparison towns but that many residents resent it. This single conflict is the reason you went from one extreme to the other. Get most of the residents to see that and strike the balance needed to make your city work. Everything else can fall in under that. If you can't do that before hiring the next manager, hire someone who can.
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Old Nov 17, 2013, 10:51 AM   #11
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You've already stated that tourism is important enough that it makes your town better than the comparison towns but that many residents resent it. This single conflict is the reason you went from one extreme to the other. Get most of the residents to see that and strike the balance needed to make your city work. Everything else can fall in under that. If you can't do that before hiring the next manager, hire someone who can.
The fight between the neighborhood and downtown has been ugly for at least forty years now. I tried to get one leader of one faction to publicly show an olive branch to the other side, but they wouldn't have it.

In truth, in such a teeny town, there's only so much budget so you can't please both. One party will be in power for some time, help their constituents until the other party gets angry and gets enough votes to boot them. The vicious cycle goes on and on and I am probably describing most small townships when it comes to citizens breaking off into two factions. It kind of sounds like DC, but on a smaller scale.

The people on both sides are my friends and decent people, but they both seem tied into one side or the other.
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Old Nov 17, 2013, 12:31 PM   #12
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I haven't figured out your city yet, but I don't think you'll have to worry about turning into a Marin City. Marin City, the projects ( )of affluent Marin, has it's own unique problems but at least they have that self proclaimed wannabe gangsta Tupoc.
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Old Nov 17, 2013, 01:22 PM   #13
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The people on both sides are my friends and decent people, but they both seem tied into one side or the other.
Yes and again, its the perfect metaphor for our national polarization. We all want whats good and right but we all have our own lives and prioritizes and don't always agree on what that is. Complicating matters, freedom is supposed to mean getting to do and have what we want, so we're disappointed and blaming others.

Had each opportunity to spend it all on one or the other, been shared on both, each side would have ended up with the same benefit over the same time, long term. Instead of fixing all the pot holes in one area, then the other, then back to the first, they could have fixed all the holes in both places, in the same amount of time. And without all the animosity.

You're clearly aware of whats wrong and why. If folks are so dug into the fight itself that they can't see the forest for the trees, its time to find a new forest.
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Old Nov 17, 2013, 07:38 PM   #14
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I haven't figured out your city yet, but I don't think you'll have to worry about turning into a Marin City. Marin City, the projects ( )of affluent Marin, has it's own unique problems but at least they have that self proclaimed wannabe gangsta Tupoc.
I want to keep the specific city off the thread, but quite a few cities in the region of northern California have similar woes of small town small mindedness. It's pretty maddening.

That being said, I am sure there are legions of small so-Cal cities with same issues.

They only get worse when there's a recession and money is short.
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Old Dec 24, 2013, 01:56 PM   #15
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After talking to many locals on both sides these past few weeks, it's pretty clear both sides have done good and also done wrong. A lot of the energy has been in one side attacking the other and then warding off counter attacks. It's all been twenty or thirty years of lawsuits and nobody seems to remember where it all started.

The best thing, especially since both sides have far more in common, is for reconciliation and getting everybody to avoid the coming financial pitfalls and ongoing lawsuits. Heck, if Boehner and Obama can pass a budget, especially after a lot of past name calling, so can a town of 1,600 residents. Being that political enemies of each other are often in same families, social groups, and small businesses, there has to be a place for common ground.

What I don't like the is hostility everywhere. While a big city may have a major issue like whether or not to build a skyscraper or major shopping mall, city council members in small towns around have got into fights over who gets to keep a discarded piece of city gardening equipment worth $400 dollars. Should the mayor get the discarded gardening tool or should it go the the police chief? Fights over **** like that but that describes small towns and sometimes the small minds that come with it. You can come in with all the education and experience in the world but in six months you will be reduced to Mayberry RFD.

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Old Dec 24, 2013, 02:39 PM   #16
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What I don't like the is hostility everywhere. While a big city may have a major issue like whether or not to build a skyscraper or major shopping mall, city council members in small towns around have got into fights over who gets to keep a discarded piece of city gardening equipment worth $400 dollars. Should the mayor get the discarded gardening tool or should it go the the police chief?
That should be relatively easy to solve. Either put it up for auction, or put it in a raffle with one entry per person (or one entry per household, if it's that kind of object).

The auction is good when things have some residual value, and it weeds out the ones who just want the perks from those who want the object. The raffle is good when things have little or no auctionable value, but still work well enough that they can be useful.

If it ends up in a raffle, I think old gardening equipment would fall into a "one entry per household" type.
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