Tuesday, October 8, 2013

De Alcorn On the Importance of Volunteers

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(Mod: Apparently the role of volunteers and volunteering will be under some sort of a review at this evening's City Council meeting. While it is hard to make a call on this now because the Staff Report for this item is not very clear, the word on the street is certain volunteer responsibilities are to be assigned to salaried city employees, including much of the position De currently works. Which I guess means it wouldn't be a volunteer position anymore. Ironic given that the title of the position is Service and Volunteering. Below is an essay De Alcorn has written on the topic of volunteering in Sierra Madre, and its importance to our community.)

City Council, City Manager, and Director Human Resources: Regarding the item “Municipal Volunteer Program (M.V.P.)” on the CC agenda for October 8.

I support a review and discussion of the direction and status of the volunteer functions.  Due to the nature and opportunities in some areas, there is a range of volunteer participation in the various departments.  Here is my overview.

Our Volunteer Fire Department has a long history of being staffed mainly by volunteers.  There has been some recent addition of paid staff to meet the requirements of mutual aid and the paramedic program.  To further augment, that I am working with the Fire Department to establish the Sierra Madre Community Emergency Response Team (SMCERT), which is sponsored by the SMVFD.  This is a group that augments the SMVFD for emergencies and other situations such as Fire Watch during Red Alerts.  SMCERT also participates in various city functions to educate citizens about preparedness for emergencies.  This will help the SMVFD by having people be more independent and less demanding of emergency services.

The library has a significant use of volunteers, both adult and very successful programs working with the schools to provide an opportunity for their students to perform useful services.  There has been a constructive use of interns for specific functions and projects.

The SM Police Department uses volunteer reserve officers.  I think a few more would be in place but the initial cost of qualifying and equipping them is a somewhat limiting element.  Volunteers have been used for other supporting functions in traffic control and office functions.  Sergeant Ortiz has been spearheading an aggressive effort to expand the use of non-sworn volunteers.  The addition of a vehicle for volunteer use and the formation of the Volunteers on Patrol group expand the scope of activities that volunteers can perform, of which I am a member.  Due to the newness of the formation of this group it is still in its formative stages.   I have been working with Sergeant Enriquez to enhance the Neighborhood Watch program by expanding their scope and information provided to them.

Other departments successfully use volunteers and interns.  However, there is a restriction as to how many and what functions can be performed due to limited office space availability.  The public works department use volunteers for specific projects that an individual, Eagle Scout, or a school group may perform.

There are many functions and events that civic organizations do and also assist in; such as the Fourth of July, Huck Finn Day, Wisteria Festival, Mount Wilson Trail Race, and Halloween activities.  There is a long list of civic groups that directly help the city; such as the Civic Club, Women’s Club, Friends of the Library, Kiwanis, Rotary, CERT, Emergency Radio support, VFW, and many others.  Also we have the youth activities such as Little League and related groups.  I am personally involved in several of these organizations.

There is participation by the citizens in the various City committees and commissions.  These volunteer groups perform functions vital to the functioning of the City.

For my part, one of my first assignments was to produce a Volunteer Management Policies document that the JPIA was demanding.  I met with people from the cities of Pasadena, Santa Monica, Monrovia, Arcadia, and South Pasadena.  The other organizations I met with were Huntington Hospital and Arcadia Methodist Hospital to get a view as to how they utilize a cadre of volunteers for a wide range of activities with constraints of confidentiality of patient’s information.  I also met with the volunteer coordinator at Blair High School to better understand the use and limitations of utilizing student volunteers.  I also researched the internet. From this I wrote a Volunteer Management Policies document which was reviewed by staff and legal counsel.  With some minor modifications the policy document was adopted by the City.

A brochure was needed for volunteer recruitment so I devised one to be used.  An intern did the final editing.   Job descriptions for existing and new volunteers were produced by staff and an intern.  The editing of this was done by a professional I recruited.  I initiated a newspaper article which recognized a different volunteer every week that ran for a year.  I attended all the committee and commission meetings many times to better understand the roles and challenges of those groups and get a better view of the City functions and activities.  I participate in the planning, preparation, and execution of the Volunteer Recognition Brunch.  I interface with some volunteers and interact with the Human Resources Department for their potential placement and have helped volunteers find a match for their interests.  More recently at the request of Pete Sibrell, Pat and I met with him to discuss projects that the Rotary Club could do to benefit the City.  We shared our thoughts and gave him some ideas with potential.

Finally, the City has a viable volunteer program.  It is evolving in a good fashion. There are improvements that staff has instituted, with more coming.  A review of the volunteer program and the function of Secretary of Service and Volunteering can help assure the program is on track as well as foster an improving volunteer program.    When I was appointed Secretary of Service and Volunteering there was no time of service established. This should be reviewed and there should be a set term established similar to the other commissions, committees, and elected positions.

However it takes time to establish a relationship with the various departments, civic organizations, and the public so this should be considered in the length of time to be served.  The appointment process, function, and job description of the Secretary of Service and Volunteering should be reviewed.   I think this should have a large ombudsman role.   I have some other thoughts on this I am willing to share.

Altogether, I think the City should be proud of its volunteerism and participation of its citizens.  I firmly believe that Sierra Madre is unique in its per capita citizen participation.  This, despite the challenges of recent years of more families having two spouses working and the strain the economy has placed on many people.

Volunteers are vital and necessary to the function of Sierra Madre and add cohesiveness and a sense of ownership to its residents.  Their participation should be fostered in as many ways as the City can accommodate.

De Alcorn
Secretary of Service and Volunteering

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

171 comments:

  1. I thought City Staff was very busy and didn't have enough time for what they already have to do?

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    1. So they say.

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    2. City events such as Huck Finn, Halloween Window Painting, July 4th, Mt. Wilson Trail Race, etc. need to be sponsored and run by citizen volunteers. If there is not enough interest (i.e. helpful volunteers) for an event, well I guess it shouldn't happen. Why go to all the expense if not enough folks are interested? Let's remember, this town belongs to the citizens, not the city government.

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    3. Agreed 7:24. If residents want an event to happen, they will make it happen. City staff has other obligations.

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    4. Agreed

      Let the market, so to speak, determine whether or not a "special event" takes place. When people stopped volunteering and contributing to the 4th of July parade, that should have been the end of it. Instead, City Hall decided it was a great opportunity to waste our tax dollars on something that very few if any, care enough about to invest their time and money in.

      Now, tax payers are subsidizing events for shameless self-promoters. UGGH

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    5. I disagree. When the city became involved there was no reason for so many people to step up. Chicken or egg, the city took over because people didn;t step up? Or did people walk away when the city took over.

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    6. @4:37

      So, you support the forceful TAKEOVER of volunteer activities by government. You, Marx, Stalin, Mao, FDR, and Hitler too. Nice to know what kind of neighbors I have.

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    7. Hey everybody, Steve is here!!

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  2. When the city took over the Halloween activities (window painting in a particular) from the Civic Club volunteers, and no, I am not a member of the Civic Club, in order to "better " organize it by giving it to recreation staff to manage and promote, they increased the participation fee to cover the added salary time of the staff, and guess what? participation plummeted.

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    1. Staff should not be involved in any non-essential activities.

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    2. Agreed. Why should we have to pay for things we used to do for ourselves?

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    3. volunteers are way more qualified in all areas than city staff



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    4. Civic Club members were upset about the fees and have taken back the window painting event this year.

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    5. Off with their heads!

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    6. That's good news 11:41. Thanks for posting.

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  3. Maybe they want to hire a new person to do this job. 'Cause in this economy, that's a good idea.

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    1. I think they don't want anyone from Sierra Madre holding important positions. This way the city can justify the high taxes.

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    2. City Hall wants people to believe that they are an irreplaceable part of their lives. Probably because they are not.

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    3. Replaceable, yes.
      Irreplaceable? Ha ha ha ha ha.

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  4. John and Diane ShearOctober 8, 2013 at 7:04 AM

    Thank you De Alcorn! Thank you Pat Alcorn and all the volunteers of Sierra Madre. We appreciate what you do!

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    1. Amen John and Diane! Without the volunteers the wonderful sense of community that everyone talks about would not exist. Pat and De are the pinnacle examples of people dedicated to serving the community. They show us that the way to "keep Sierra Madre, Sierra Madre" is to raise one's hand and volunteer to help.

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    2. Thank you De!

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  5. Has our city government always had such a control freak aspect to it?

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    1. been going on since the Bart Doyle days - then came along the lawyer drones for utility companies and it hit rock bottom with Nancy I hate everybody Walsh and Josh Moran

      the we sunk even lower with John Harbadeian, the Buchanan clone - another lawyer who isn't as smart as he thinks he is but can't shut up

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    2. Yep, Bart Doyle brought a lot of aspiring real estate lawyers with him to Sierra Madre. And let's not forget the fact that he is responsible for replacing Charles Martin with Colantuono & Levin.

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  6. This reminds me of the flag waving, mom, apple pie and do goodness speeches by those who are under fire for being (a) incompetent (b) criminally active (c) preparing to run away with the cities funds?

    It's great to be a volunteer, but at what end? To cover up the less then stellar performance by people in city hall that are being paid the big buck and retirement packages to sit around?

    Look behind the curtain Dorothy.

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  7. Ah, the Red Queen raises her scepter again. As a career bureaucrat, she can see no other way to do things than to have complete government control. Her watchwords: You can't trust the people.

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    Replies
    1. Employees do exactly as they are told. Volunteers? They think their opinions actually count.

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  8. too many vounteers in the city are involved because it's good marketing

    like the realtors

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  9. what I'd like to see is with the 4th of July parade to stop the over commercialization of the parade - it looks like a hokey NASCAR parade - sponsors and sponsors and advertisers just puttering down SM Blvd

    if I had my way, I'd eliminate all signage on cars from businesses or politicians - or if they want to advertise in the parade they pay a substantial fee

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    1. The 4th of July is a bogus holiday to begin with. If people aren't willing to volunteer and contribute, then let the parade go.

      If your brand of patriotism involves spending other peoples' money, eating, drinking and partying, then go be a "patriot" some place else.

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    2. It's our tax money. Might as well drink on our dime.

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    3. @4:45pm

      I'll keep my money and you can go buy your own drinks.

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    4. I'll have what he's drinking.

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  10. The Alcorns define the term "volunteers". And, you know what? Their motives are pure. No gaming the system for personal gain; no just showing up for photo ops. Just good people who have owned their home, raised their family, and given back to the community for decades. By the way De, great blog post today! You're my hero.

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    1. Amen. A belief in community, along with the personal dedication and sacrifice to back it up, is what makes places like Sierra Madre strong. Thank you De Alcorn.

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  11. The City has one full time person and one half time person to coordinate the special events of the City.
    The City is now requiring the Community Service Commission member to be responsible for special events to help staff. The City spends over 3,000 hours plus police and public works hours for these events.

    LET THE VOLUNTERS BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EVENTS.

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    1. This is one time ALL CAPS works! 3,000 Hours plus police and public works hours looks like upwards of $150,000 for non-essential services (not to mention benefits and pension contributions) that not only could be done, but should be done, by volunteers. Buchanan's "full service city" shouldn't include cradle to grave entertainment for its residents. THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

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    2. More than 3,000 hours? Ridiculous waste.

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    3. Outrageous waste of money. We also pay $130 an hour for off duty SMPD to provide security at these events. You know, just in case the fish bite or Santa falls off his chair.

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    4. It's a CAPITAL idea!

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  12. Perhaps the City Administration, Staff and City Employee Volunteers would want to set their Fridays (the City closed for business on Fridays) aside and Volunteer as "workers" to support the Citizen Volunteers. Free of course from the long arm of Elaine, Nancy, Josh and Johnny.

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  13. The Tattler is a volunteer enterprise, though as far as I know the City hasn't tried to take it over yet.

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  14. Better watch out, Mod. Nancy Walsh may want to institute a "Volunteer Blog Fee" of $1,000 per year. Unless you have city staff moderate The Tattler, of course.

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  15. Channel 3 is no longer available on basic Time Warner Cable.

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  16. Thank you Council member Koerber. I do appreciate that prayer can be included in our practice of freedom of religion.

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  17. So glad the attorney reports on those closed sessions.

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  18. Can you define a bedroom? Is it a room with a bed in it?

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  19. Nancy attended the library. It was a Norman Rockwell moment. She fit right in.

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  20. Public comment at 6:46 - what? Public comment is supposed to be at 7. Or was a change announced?
    Now public comment start time is any old time after 6:30?

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  21. Good to see the "red flag" getting its due.

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  22. Kgem went dark. Back on, back off. Gonna be a long night for anyone who is trying to follow online.

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    Replies
    1. They do such a fine job.

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    2. So no TV, no KGEM, and hardly anyone at city hall. If you hold a meeting and nobody hears it, did it ever exist?

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  23. Will they be showing the Three Stooges on that TV channel? That would be a true community service. Especially if they show the Shemp ones.

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  24. KGEM is not working

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  25. Scott Oliver gave the City Council hell on the water issue. Now they are responding. Pretty good.

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  26. The theme for the Rose Float this year is "catching the big one." It is about City Hall's hunt for a large water rate increase.

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  27. People can't see this meeting. It's not on channel 3 and it's not online.

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    Replies
    1. I will drop anything big that happens into the comments.

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  28. Bruce says we saved 21 million gallons of water in September. Saving of 20% over last year. What's our reward?

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    Replies
    1. Looks like tomorrow is Chloramine Day.

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    2. I don't believe anything they say anymore.

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    3. They should add a little window pane....

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  29. Currently there are 7 residents in Council Chambers. High single digits.

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  30. Public Facilities Fees Rate Adjustment is being discussed. This could show up as a public hearing in a future meeting. Koerber is saying growth should be paying its own way. Rates should be raised as soon as possible. The increase is overdue. MPT* is down as well.

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  31. It is unanimous. Rate adjustments are going to happen.

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    Replies
    1. That's good because it's fair, but it's also justification to amp up even more development.

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  32. Director Cox is pushing for the OpenGov online budget program. $1,788 is the cost, and MPT* is the one who brought this up. Nancy Walsh saw it when she was up at the League of California Cities meeting in Sacramento. Josh says it is easy to use. Tyler gives us a spread sheets only, OpenGov gives us colorful graphs and pie charts. John Capoccia wonders if anyone would look at it, and therefore it is worth spending money on. But he is for it as well. Koerber looked into the confidentiality and thinks it is pretty good. Delphi will sell the info down the road, but no big deal. They're going for it. Transparency and data visualization software for one year is approved.

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  33. Item #4 is up. Elaine has listed all of the delayed projects, and how staffing reductions have caused these delays. Somehow we have survived.

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    1. Koerber - Elaine's claim of 10 less full time equivalents also includes grass mowers and rakers. Some things are now handled by contractors. The cut backs might not have really impacted paper pushing.

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    2. Not sure, but I think Sierra Madre is perpetually delayed. I mean, for like 30 years, it has been that way.

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    3. Somehow we muddle through.

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  34. In the event anyone is interested in a 4 minute musical interlude, that may express how many of us our feeling, here is a suggestion.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv61zBZacpo&list=PL0J_UIvtGBHz2mrpVA1Gx9QSN7gptkTRr&index=42


    Enjoy!

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  35. Oh Good God, do we really have to hear once again that staff has no time to do their damn jobs?
    These people would not last a minute in my business.

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  36. For those of you who cannot tune in at home, the City Council is about to consider how they can spend $870,000 in unassigned General Fund reserves.

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    Replies
    1. Nancy wants to use it to fix the City Hall roof.

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    2. Koeber's point: We didn't raise the UUT to 12% and we came up with a $870,000 surplus. It had been pointed out by the Buchanan Council that we would have lost $500,000 if we didm;t go to 12%. That turned out not to be true.

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    3. Tarps to cover the city hall roof won't cost that much. Buy tarps. Use bricks. Act like you care a little bit about really saving money and living within your means.

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    4. Sell the place. Move City Staff into the empty half of Howie's. Then use the money to pay down water bond debts.

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    5. Nancy says City Hall is the face of the city, so we need to gussy the place up. I guess the rest of the town doesn't count.

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    6. 8:46 best remark of the night. So far.

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    7. Use the money to start a municipal golf course.

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    8. Oh I feel better now that Josh is saying they are not just free spending - cause ya could have fooled me.

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    9. Somebody please let Koerber make the money decisions. By himself.

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    10. Koerber just said we're trying to spend this money like it is burning a hole in our pocket. Josh just jumped in and gave reasons why we should spend the money like it is burning a hole in our pockets.

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    11. Heaven forbid if we don't look like we have money that we don't have.

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  37. The meeting can be seen without a new box at channel 15-259 on newer sets

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    1. What is 15-259? A channel number?

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  38. I am watching it now , I hope other sets have same numbering system any one else find it?

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  39. Ok, I say that we no longer allow people to sit on the council unless they have the capacity to understand that "just $50,000" is not appropriate language.

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  40. KGEM is back on. In time for the break.

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  41. Item #6. How much do we have to spend to keep City Staff from going for new jobs in Duarte's City Hall. Or something.

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  42. Great. Employee recruitment and retention. Because the city staff doesn't have it easy enough.
    Why are we spending oh-so-precious staff time gearing up to hire? I thought we were trying to cut back.

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  43. Ms. Cox is examining low to mid cost incentives to keep the staff from leaving the ship.

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    1. Go ahead and let anyone who wants to leave get going. Don't let the door hit 'em on the way out. Then open up the announcements of new jobs and stand back.

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    2. Give city employees a car allowance? What?

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    3. MPT* says the Police Dept is having trouble recruiting to fill positions.

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  44. A $300 a month auto allowance? A car? What?

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  45. Doesn't the average resident watching tonight's city council meeting get the uncomfortable feeling the city council member and city staff are on some magical mystery tour?

    Who put the acid in their water?

    It's these people who are out of touch with reality.

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  46. The city manager just said it wasn't fair, because only 3 people don't get it. Make it fair - take it away from the others, so those 3 are not alone.

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  47. Why are government benefits so much more generous than those given in the private sector?

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  48. I would like to be in a circumstance where I can talk about $300 as not very much.

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  49. Barbara Leigh has asked a good question. What is the turnover in these jobs?

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    Replies
    1. We've been very fortunate blahblahblah not much turn over blahblahblah

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  50. Josh: We need to improve morale without spending a lot of money. Hire birthday party clowns?

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  51. Barbara Leigh is right on tonight.
    Nice remark about not needing the UUT increase, nice surprise to get the money, and open up the jobs. Once a year let people come & apply, and the people who have the jobs can move on.

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  52. Moran is doing the kiss up to staff speech.

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  53. Do you think the sheriffs have any trouble hiring?

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  54. MPT* is worried that we cannot recruit officers for the SMPD. How about we bring in the Sheriffs? Then we get a full staff of committed officers.

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  55. Smile residents, you've just given three staff members cars for work.

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  56. Time to talk about the volunteer program, as requested by Mayor Walsh.

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  57. Why is the staff person discussing the volunteer program?

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  58. Don't spend any money on putting volunteer opportunities online. Volunteers will seek out their own opportunities, because they want to volunteer.

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  59. Harabedian must be Nancy's mouthpiece on this.

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  60. De is being discussed in the third person by the MPT*. He is in the room.

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  61. Nice, that staff gal just handed the responsibility for this waste of time square on Nancy Walsh.

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    1. Nancy is a master of irrelevant minutia.

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  62. I would never volunteer to work for city staff.

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  63. The town is crazy successful in volunteer participation. Bring in staff and that will stop.

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  64. Nancy is discussing "issues" that have come up over the last year. What issues?

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    1. She wants to bring volunteerism into this century. Design a website. Yeah, this century. Send an email.

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  65. Walsh wants term limits, technical skills, and evaluations. Volunteerism is taking a different turn, it's suffering. It's not popular with the young people.
    Was it ever?
    Oh no. She has been planning this.

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    1. She wants to buy new software and have staff monitor it.

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    2. Now that's compost!

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  66. Good. It's clear. Walsh wants the voluteer program to be controlled by city hall.

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  67. Ah, sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but she's an idiot.

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  68. Finger printing? Hey, how about Robert W. Matheson's fingertprints?

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  69. Nancy is looking for volunteers for compost distribution? Jeez, why can't you get a big turn out for that?

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  70. Ms. Walsh you better back up the "people are asking for this" with facts, because I don't think that's true.

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  71. Barbara Leigh scores again. It sounds like the Mayor is trying to create a new paying job.

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  72. "What are you really asking for?"
    Barbara Leigh Cline

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  73. Great suggestion from Caroline Brown. Get people to adopt a drain.

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  74. Hey Walsh politely asked the speaker to wrap it up. That was different.

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  75. Moran wants a coordinating council. Isn't that what the community services commission does?

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  76. This has all been a set up for more online ads for the city. I'm sure it'll be wildly successful. Worth fifty thou or more.

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  77. More meetings! Yes, that will do it.

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  78. Nancy is right. Putting it on the computer makes it really modern. Wow.

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  79. If volunteering turns into another formal bureaucratic gauntlet, I won't be participating any more.

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  80. How do you get people to work for free? Has this problem ever been solved? Outside of using whips and chains?

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  81. Thanks for your perceptive remarks Mr. Alcorn.

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    Replies
    1. He's a lot more gracious than the company he's in.

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  82. Pay for more staff costs to get people to volunteer. Is that an oxymoron?

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  83. This council will kill volunteerism.

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  84. I'll have another lemon drop, please

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  85. Put it online. Problem solved.
    lol

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    Replies
    1. They seem to believe that will really answer the need for more volunteers.

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    2. They had volunteered to help keep Nancy from looking like an idiot.

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  86. There was a red flag flood warning up on the city website all weekend and nobody much noticed it. At least until it hit this blog. How are you going to get people to go to the website to fill out applications online?

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  87. A red flag?! Oh, no, we're all going to die !!!!!!

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  88. Just what everyone needs - more email.

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  89. Koerber --- If you want to ruin volunteerism get the government to run it.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely. He was quoting de touquevillie.

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  90. This was cooked up by Nancy and Josh and John H.

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  91. Once again the Mayor is claiming to have heard from people about problems. Without specifics. Except now she wants to hire 2 people - one for technology and one for customer service.

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    Replies
    1. It's that giddiness they get when percolating ideas that are funded abundantly and indefinitely.

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  92. Basic flaw: Nobody goes to the city's site.

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  93. Why didn't Nancy just put on the agenda Buy Software for the volunteer program? Why did she put the job description at all?

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    1. It's a municipal mystery.

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    2. Betcha it's because when she added the item to the agenda she had something else in mind... then thought better of it after reading the Tattler. Don't think for a moment she doesn't keep up.

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The Tattler is a moderated blog. Annoying delays when posting comments can happen. Thank you for your patience and understanding.