At long last Council whittles down list of priorities

In a way, the stretched-out 3-session City Council Priority Workshop that recessed (gulp!) Tuesday ("to around budget preparation time") was an ambitious exercise. And, for some precarious moments, it seemed to o'erleap itself.To his credit, Mayor Mario Guerra courageously owned up to instigating it. The bold intent of the workshop seemed clear enough: 1) departmental presentation and City Council discussion/direction of departmental priorities; and 2) City Council discussion/direction of city goals and integration of goals with departmental priorities. The underlinings above are mine. They never happened. Maybe the people concerned, to use Bush's famous malapropism, 'misunderestimated' the time frame involved, or maybe they will be addressed the next time around. But this is clearly a case of not delivering as promised. Anyway, after the final departmental presentation on Special Projects was made by deputy city manager Desi Alvarez, and the usual follow-up queries (about AB 139, etc.) were answered, out came the Council's 'final goal list' of 49 ranked items. Ranked on top of the list was "Expand/improve public information through website enhancements, including utility bill management, pushed e-mail alerts and notices, and interactive on-line directory of events and civic groups." To someone who hadn't attended any of the two previous workshop sessions, and to read this statement for the first time (without at least a nodding acquaintance with the sentence and an inkling of what it signifies), this must have read like pure gobbledegook. "What do we do with this list?" cried one council member, I forget who. "And how do we proceed?" A confused chatter ensued among the obviously ill-prepared council members. City Manager Gerald Caton offered to penetrate the fog: "Why don't you classify them into primary, secondary, tertiary (I'm paraphrasing here), etc., goals? Based on these specific, agreed-upon goals, we the staff can then develop our programs around them." The confusion went on for several more minutes, until someone (I think it was Guerra, if memory serves) said, "Why don't we go down the list and strike out the obvious duplications?" So this was done. And lo and behold, to their amazement, the 49-item list was pared down to 28, then finally 17. There was rejoicing then in the kingdom (of the lost!). The clock ticked 9:30 p.m. The session had started at 6:30 p.m. Throughout the whole 3-session exercise, there was, in addition to the omissions indicated above, no mention of Vision 2025, the so-called 'general plan'. The exercise is being conducted in vacuo. The directive to staff at adjournment was to look at the 17 items and come back with costing attached, etc. We'll (again) see how this goes.

********** Published: April 3, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 50