Friday, April 25, 2014

Strategic Planning Retreat: What We Get For Our Money

A Facilitator
Since the voters of Sierra Madre have now decided to sunset our 10% utility taxes twice in the last two years, you might assume that our city government will soon begin to show signs of recognizing that the will of its erstwhile bosses needs to be recognized. And while the final certified Measure UUT vote totals from our election of more than two weeks ago have yet to be posted on the City of Sierra Madre website (link), we can still hope. Just don't get too carried away with it.

At 8:30 this morning City Hall will begin enjoying something called a Strategic Planning Retreat (link). It is an exercise conducted twice a year, and we hire someone from beyond the usual circle of suspects to run this event for us. This person, who is referred to as a facilitator, is named Marilyn Snider. And her company, Snider and Associates, handles everything from keeping folks in line, to note taking, and then the final report. The purpose being to help our 5 elected City Councilmembers, along with a City Staff that theoretically answers to them, decide what exactly they would like to do with their time as our City's leaders for the next six months.

The costs associated with this process (so called) are not inconsiderable. Marilyn Snider herself gets $6,000 per retreat, or $12,000 for the year. Not bad for a few hours of work. When the costs of other services such as creating the documents that record the decisions made at this event are factored in, that yearly amount rises to $15,000. Recoup the salaries of the department heads in attendance, along with catering and other incidentals, and we are getting into some rather substantial bucks.

You'd think a city government that has often (and loudly) proclaimed that it will be losing a million dollars a year due to the defeat of Measure UUT would begin to be a little more stingy in its spends. With everything being looked over due to the budgetary constraints laid on this city by the voting taxpayers. Everything should now be on the table.

So what do we get for our $17,000 or so a year? Spent to obtain the Strategic Planning Retreat facilitating skills of Marilyn Snider and her associates? A report, of course. And since Ms. Snider performs this service for many cities throughout the state, examples of her report work can be readily found on the Internet. I have selected three reports for you to examine. I am reproducing the first page of each, with a link provided to take you to the rest of the fun.

If I can point out one thing, notice how all three look almost exactly the same.

City of Citrus Heights (link)

City of Nevada City (link)

City of Santa Clara (link)
Here are a few observations. Is it really necessary to produce reports such as these twice a year? Couldn't we get by just fine with only one? Or how about one every two years? That would certainly bring the cost down to levels commensurate with our now far lower utility tax rates.

Then there is this comment left on The Tattler yesterday by one of our many knowledgeable readers.

If we didn't have these semi-annual strategic planning meetings there would be nothing for the council to continue to table until the next meeting. The strategic plan is always at the end of the agenda and for the most part gets moved to the next meeting. So we can see how truly important it is to all concerned. 

Which is very true. Proposed discussions of these reports by the City Council always get stuck on at the very end of the agenda, and invariably get bumped as meetings usually go on for far too long. Often these discussions get pushed multiple times, and a few never happened at all.

If Strategic Planning Retreat reports are so vital to the well-being of our city, why are they treated in so dismissive a manner by the City Council?

Perhaps we could save the entire $17,000 a year by doing away with this apparent holdover from a now bygone era when City Hall had lots of excess cash to burn? If our city government is ever to reflect the will of the people in its financial dealings, this could very well be the place to start.

If the City does keep this "process" going on for much longer it could make many wonder if they ever plan to honor our vote at all.

Today's Strategic Planning Retreat is being held at the YAC starting at 8:30. It will not be televised. Usually only a few residents attend. Like many of this City's hardworking taxpayers I will be on my way to work at that hour and will not be able to go. If you are there be sure to share your experiences here so that the rest of us can better understand what went down.

My guess is that the defeat of a Utility User Tax increase for the second election in a row will be the elephant in the room today. It could very well be that the initial groundwork for putting the UUT back on the ballot for a ridiculous third time in six years (or less) will begin to be put into place today.

But who can tell for certain until it happens?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

20 comments:

  1. I have been Easter vacation. Do we still have a police department and paramedics? Has the library closed yet?

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    Replies
    1. They are still there. But City Hall was sold. The Kensington people bought it and plan to turn it into a dementia ward.

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    2. That calls for a comment!!! Very funny because it is so TRUE! Thank You!!!

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  2. Catering? Buffet? Looks like Nancy will attend!

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  3. This appears to be the biggest waste of time and money. It should not be done even once a year. Stick everybody in a room and let them toss around some ideas. These retreats sound impressive but are an utter waste of time.

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    1. Why doesn't the City Council set the goals instead of the worker bees? I use the term "worker" loosely.
      Why should they decide what they want to do. Businesses don't operate that way. Can you imagine the sales people at Nordstrom setting company policy? That would never happen.

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    2. City Hall is an anarcho-syndicalist collective.

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  4. In all the years that these meetings have been going on, what positive, specific, and concrete results can be directly attributed to these meetings?

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  5. My take has always been that this meeting is to bring the City Council into line with staff's agenda. If that isn't the case, then why do these meetings even take place?

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  6. Every two years might be OK. Maybe to coincide with elections. But the retreat should be held in the evening and be televised.

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  7. This is just plain crazy. We have city council members and city hall staff who can't figure out how to talk to each other, or follow an agenda? Not true.
    Frivolous extravagance.

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    Replies
    1. It is process. That way nobody has to stick their neck out or take responsibility for their actions.

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  8. Several SGV cities who by chance all belong to the SGVCOG association or Social Club have signed on as recipients of this fine tuning seminar's or retreats? I personally believe this is a sneaky way of getting around the "California Brown Act" this allows manager's and city council member's to swap spit and tell lies and plot and plan against the honest and respectable voters of each city. These meeting should all be video recorded, it's tax payer's dollars that are giving these political sharks the time and space to plot and plan their next big financial debacle.

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  9. City Councilmembers need to learn to do their own heavy lifting. Watching them regurgitate whatever the City Mngr says on her staff reports is just sad. Lead dammit.

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  10. So it's after 3 pm and the meeting should be over. any reports of what transpired?

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    Replies
    1. All potential informants were rounded up and remanded to Pasadena.

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    2. Have any of them made bail?

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  11. What we get for our money is a regurgitated consultant template.
    Such a charade.

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  12. Snider is an expert in her field! She has helped transform some agencies into fine oiled machines.....the COG comes to mind. She was hand picked by Conway if I recall correctly and look how that worked out for them.....

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