Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Special Meeting - Goal Setting 3.13.23

The Council met in a Special meeting on 3.13.23 to conduct a goal setting session. There were thee main areas of discussion:

- We received a presentation from Municipal Resource Group (MRG) who we engaged to conduct an organizational assessment of City staff.  
- We reviewed a staff request list from each department.
- We shared goals that each Councilmember had for the 2023 year

MRG identified several strengths and weaknesses of the organization.  They also made several  recommendations including the addition of 4 FTEs across multiple departments.  MRGs recommendations explicitly did not consider any fiscal impact to the organization.

Many of the strengths reflect the diligent work and professionalism of City staff.  Their focus is on providing excellent service to Clayton residents, they feel that they can accomplish their day to day work, and they feel supported by City management and the Council.  Another strength identified was areas where we have made strategic decisions to outsource certain services and functions where it made sense. This includes things like Engineering or Legal services that require specific expertise on an as needed basis, or police dispatch services through the City of Concord where we can leverage the infrastructure in place and take advantage of their larger size in keeping it up to date.  MRG also called out community volunteerism through organizations like the Clayton Business and Community Association as a strength, serving an essential role in community engagement.

The weaknesses identified by MRG were mainly around our small staff size.  Smaller staff sizes presents challenges for long term planning, managing vacancies and time off, training opportunities, unclear roles and responsibilities, and insufficient bandwidth to handle spikes in workload volumes, among other things.  MRG also identified the lack of technology based operational tools that would make work more efficient.  

To remedy this MRG made several recommendations most of which surrounded adding additional staff and releveling existing staff.  MRG also recommended that we continue contracting for certain outside services and conduct long range planning in terms of Information Technology and infrastructure.  MRG also recommended that roles and responsibilities for each position at City Hall be identified in order to evaluate if certain tasks could be consolidated, refined, or eliminated.

The staffing positions that MRG recommended were the addition of a full time Accountant, Associate Planner, Public Works Manager, and a Senior Maintenance Worker.  MRG also recommended that our Finance Director be releveled to an Administrative Services Director, and a Police Sergeant be releveled to a Police Lieutenant.

I appreciate the work from MRG and many of the findings have merit.  But this is not to say that the city is adopting these recommendations as a foundation for moving forward.  Certainly work can be made easier with the addition of more staff or more resources, but without consideration of any fiscal impacts the recommendations do not represent a realistic path forward, rather they are an idealistic approach as if money were no object.  It does serve as a data point among other data points to be used as we evaluate future actions.

MRG's full report can be found here: ( starting on page 28 of the agenda packet.

As of this week, we are now fully staffed (City Manager is Interim with interviews and hiring process proceeding on schedule) with the exception of the Assistant to the City Manager position which we've held off on recruiting for pending the placement of a permanent City Manager.  An early task of any incoming City Manager will be to evaluate the staff and make any needed organizational updates.

As part of our goal setting session conducted last year (3.21.22) one goal that was identified was to "have a discussion around bringing our staff tools and resourced up to modern standards".  At the time, I commented, "This is an important matter to be addressed, but why it was needed to be established as a goal as part of our annual goal setting session seemed odd to me.  The Mayor controls the Council agenda and this discussion item could have been placed on the agenda at any time."  

Unfortunately after that meeting, no meaningful action was taken to make progress on this goal - another example of opportunity squandered under prior leadership.

After becoming Mayor, I met with staff and requested that they prepare a list of items that they could use in order to make their work more efficient, or simply things that would improve quality of life.  Knowing that we are under financial constraints, being able to do more with less in certain areas would be a benefit both to staff directly, and to city operations.  The Council was able to ask staff questions about each of the items they identified and based on that discussion, many of the items that were described by staff are a low dollar investment with a higher return in terms of efficiency and quality of life.  There is no reason several of these items cannot be quickly advanced and it's unfortunate that the past Council did not see fit to do so.

This Council will rectify that and we will likely be discussing these requests at our meeting scheduled 4.4.23.  

We then moved on to discussing goals.  Fiscal sustainability was a common theme.  In no particular order, here were the ideas identified and captured:

Revenue Generating Ideas
Updated Fee Schedule
Apex IT Update
Address Financial Challenges
Landscape Maintenance District Vote
Address Finances to Fund Staff
Financial Stability
Staff Resources
GHAD Resources
Overview of On-Call Contracts
Council Relationship
Initiative to Fund Public Safety
Cannabis Initiative

Update General Plan

Due to time constraints, we tabled any adoption of these items as goals to a future meeting.  Vice Mayor Diaz's offering of exploring the potential of a cannabis dispensary has gotten a lot of attention but I am reserving judgment until we have time to discuss as a Council what we believe is best to adopt as goals.  

I've stated previously that my top priority is to achieve a fiscally sustainable budget and much of our activity this year will be focused around this effort.  This continues to be the case and in my next update I'll be sharing information on the actions taken thus far.