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Goal Setting Meeting Input

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2020 12:33:30 -0800

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Dear City Council,

I'm writing with suggestions for your goal-setting meeting. Based on my experiences during the past years as an engaged local resident, I recommend the following priorities:

1) Combating Global Climate Change through zoning changes and other reforms. The Environmental Quality Commission has suggested reforms in their proposed update to the City's Climate Action Plan. The EPA has more suggestions.<https://www.epa.gov/arc-x/strategies-climate-change-adaptation> The ConnectMenlo zoning ordinances need reviewing and updating in light of climate change alone.

2) Emergency/Disaster Preparation. Separately, you will be sent a group letter urging action on this topic. I've become involved in this topic after completing my CERT training. My observation is that residents are mostly unprepared to shelter-in-place following a major disaster, which could include an earthquake, flooding or the spreading of a communicable disease. District 1 is most at risk. Please commit to making Emergency Readiness a priority for the well-being and safety of MP Residents.

3) Reform of MP's Local Government Culture. Over the years, residents have voiced concerns about how things are done in Menlo Park. The City employees have also voiced concerns about the management in their last Employee Satisfaction Survey. The City continues to see high turnover among the rank-and-file staff with many vacant positions. At heart, I think it's time to commit to authentic reform of MP's local government and to give Staff the time to actually make some changes. Many appear quite motivated towards continuous improvement, but this is hard to do if one's priorities keep changing. After giving Staff one year to make reforms, I suggest that Council apply for the What Works Cities Certification <https://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/certification/> to continue the process. Local government culture change is very difficult to achieve and it requires a strong focus and advocacy at the top!

  * Commit to a two-year goal-setting process and a two-year budget cycle. Both would give Staff more time to fix current problems and to work on reforms.
  * Commit to implementing the Community Development & Public Works Departments' reforms recommended by Matrix Consulting. Matrix identified serious problems in both departments, such as the lack of a Capital Improvement Projects Development and Management Manual that codifies and standardizes all project management procedures. According to the report, each engineer follows his/her own set of standards. No wonder so many CIPs lack basic financial and project management details.
  * Update MP's Mission Statement, currently almost identical to the one from the City of Oxnard. (Except that Oxnard's includes the phrase, "open and responsive government")
  * Use agreed-to values to guide Council's policy decision making and Staff priorities. These would be the the ConnectMenlo Guiding Principles. These need further refining so that the values are measurable. Some terms also need clear definitions. The public spent much time helping to develop these Principles and they believed that they would be followed in the ConnectMenlo implementation. It's time to do the difficult -- but right thing -- by making these statements measurable and followed. I suggest asking for resident volunteers to serve on a temporary committee tasked with turning these into measurable statements that Council can use.
  * Update the Conflicts of Interest Policy to include Commissioners. Some of our commissioners work at businesses or non-profits that appear to give a conflict of interest. I believe that the City needs stricter guidelines as to when a commissioner should excuse him/herself on a particular decision. More disclosure of possible conflicts of interest is also needed on the applications and perhaps stricter guidelines regarding being ineligible to serve based on one's employment.
  * Commit to an authentic open search process for all open Staff positions. This is especially important for key roles such as the City Attorney. I'm concerned about what appears a "low-key" search process for the City Attorney position. To date, I only know about the posting on the City's public bid page. I'd like to know how many law firms are on that list. To increase diversity of background and thinking, I'd like to see the City commit to a broad, inclusive and sincere open search process. In the City Attorney position, at minimum, I think that the search effort should have included an advertisement in all suitable papers, and sending the job position to all California law firms with a public entity practice. I am also concerned about the relatively short amount of time the position was posted and at some of the requirements detailed in the description. The City was also asked to appoint an advisory committee, with residents also serving, to help guide this process and the development of the role description. As the same firm has supplied the City Attorney since 1961, without an open search process, it's more than time to seriously consider other law firm options.
  * Review and update the roles of the City's advisory Committees/commissions. Where applicable (i.e. Library and Planning Commission), make sure these are following all applicable state laws. Despite repeated requests of the City Attorney, over a period of several years, I've yet to get an opinion as to whether or not the Library Commission follows State mandates for its role. I suggest getting input from Commissioners serving to identify improvements needed. Residents serving expect and deserve an authentic advisory role and Management-level Staff should be held accountable for giving this to them. Unfortunately, when one reviews the Commission agendas one soon sees that many are advisory in name only. The Commissioners spend their time either discussing routine matters or they receive informational reports about pre-made Staff decisions. Residents serving also need to adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct. Unfortunately, I've seen some unprofessional commissioner behavior at some meetings, such as not listening to the discussions (but instead looking at one's phone for lengthy periods of time), side conversations, calling out to the audience, being unprepared, and missing too many meetings. Fortunately, these cases are few and I mostly see very professional service on the part of residents at the commission meetings that I've attended.
  * Fix Notify Me problems. Most lists appear to be completely inactive. Many could be combined. The important ones needed to be listed earlier with more descriptive titles, and others could be combined. I've also heard that residents have attempted to sign up for these push emails only to not receive them. This is despite repeated attempts to get on the lists. I have to ask how many are on the lists, which could highlight problems. These lists should be a primary way of communication from the City to the residents. Frequent communication as to the existence of these lists is also needed.
  * Develop an aspirational Code of Ethics that apply to Staff, Council, residents serving on advisory committees and commissions. Separately, I could send more details regarding what other cities have done and what the research suggests as to the best way to implement ethical reforms.
  * Shared governance. The public wants an authentic seat at the decision-making table. The Public Engagement Manager, and Management-level Staff involved in these, should be held accountable for making sure that all City public engagement efforts are authentic ones, and not ones designed to lead to a pre-determined outcome. Measuring and publishing the effectiveness of public engagement efforts would help. Pseudo efforts waste Staff and the residents' time. They also erode the public's trust and lead to a cynical attitude. Unfortunately, this topic still needs attention.
  * Increase volunteerism. This would also lead to increased teamwork with residents/staff, new ideas and more rapid improvements.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Tue Jan 28 2020 - 12:41:52 PST

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