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Letter | Herberta Schroeder: City Council must let staff be staff

I find it interesting how the City Council seems to think that there is a failure to communicate between City Staff and itself. There isn’t. Council only perceives that way because they don’t follow protocol.

The staff council can talk directly to the city clerk, deputy city clerk, city manager and city attorney. They can ask, during council meetings, that staff be directed to check into, work on or complete any project analysis and return to the council with that information.

What is supposed to occur then is the appropriate department heads, whether in attendance or notified later by the city manager, will do the assigned task and report to city manager, who then reports it as an agenda item. The city manager can also request staff to present their findings. These requests made of city staff are over and above their everyday jobs. These additional tasks become part of their prioritized lists of things to do. They will get done, but it is not a fast process necessarily.

Over the years positions have been vacated and gone unfilled, forcing remaining staff in those departments to add more onto their everyday responsibilities. These vacancies became the norm due to shortfalls in the expected sales tax revenues or because funds had to be allocated for emergency repairs, etc. So, a few of the city’s departments are understaffed. Council has to realize that city staff are not sitting in plush little offices twiddling their thumbs waiting on a call to action from the council. They are going about their already packed work schedule. It will be done, but unless it is a dire emergency, probably not tomorrow.

When people are elected to represent the city and constituents, remember, that is exactly what they are doing. The elected are no longer able to throw caution to the wind and must consider they are under scrutiny at all times. It is a thankless job, it can be soul crushing, but it can be the most rewarding experience by serving others.

It is a personal choice how you make your experience. Remember, elected officials are not all the means to an end. They’re people who stepped up to lead. Quit trying to find funding, inspect potential city buildings, making deals to bring this company or that company into a project. There is staff to do that. But council is not letting them do their jobs and when they do, they do not listen. If there are any doubts to what I mean, watch the last six council meetings. That is a good start.

The mayor has the gavel for a reason. If the mayor is not at a council meeting, then the vice mayor gets the gavel. The gavel means that person is the moderator; they acknowledge those wishing to speak. If order is not maintained, then council and constituents talk over each other making it very difficult to understand and record the minutes of the meeting accurately. That said, members of the council, if you are not recognized to speak – don’t. If you are in doubt of when to and when not to speak, read “Roberts Rules of Order.”

Constituents that wish to speak to the council should fill out a request before the meeting. If you decide you no longer need to speak, then when your name is called stand, be recognized and say, “Thank you, but my concerns have been addressed.” If by chance you need to speak and did not fill out a form, you can raise your hand, and the mayor may or may not allow any unregistered comments. That is the prerogative of the moderator (the one that wields the gavel).