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)
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?