The City Council Workshop occurred on April Fools’ Day. Councilmember Alvarez was not physically present but did participate telephonically. Does this signal another medical issue and another long period of absences? The 3 items up for discussion were: the Risk Management Trust Fund and Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund; Downtown Parking and the Procurement Process.

Upper management is recommending that the Risk Management Trust Fund and Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund be separated. It’s a rearrangement of the deck chairs which in this case does no harm. Many of the proposed changes had been recommended by the citizen Risk Management and Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund Board as a result of the audit and were made just before I retired and while I was still chairperson.

Downtown parking was up next. A survey had been distributed to the downtown merchants about the issue. The response was underwhelming. The conclusion by staff was that the 2 hour parking restriction at some locations is a non-issue and recommended no change to the current policy. Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Hugh, as a minority, expressed continued concern and believe that all 2 hour parking restrictions should be lifted.

The last item was a presentation by Tom Duensing, Executive Director of Finance and Michael Bailey, City Attorney, on the procurement process. There is no question that current policies are fuzzy, at best. It most certainly is time to tighten up policies in this area. However, the recommendations offered by staff still preserve a lot of discretion (read in staff terms, flexibility) for the City Manager. Not good enough. City council needs to be fully informed about every type of procurement which has not been a past practice. Practices that need reformation include the policy of not requiring bids or quotes on purchases less than $5,000. This is a practice that can bleed the city of dollars by a thousand paper cuts. These purchases are cumulative and can add up quickly. At the very least written memorialization of these purchases should be made and provided to council periodically even though no bids or quotes are required. Purchases between $5,000 and $10,000 allow the policy of verbal quotes. There should be no verbal quotes allowed.

There may be reason for an emergency purchase greater than $50,000. Currently the policy requires city manager approval and council confirmation after the fact.  This practice should be revised to inform the council (at the time of occurrence) of the city manager’s approval of such purchases. The city manager currently requires written determination from the materials manager justifying such purchases. The code should be revised to require the city manager to provide council with the determination the city manager receives from the materials manager.

Upper management continues to advocate for the provision allowing the city manager to allow exemptions and exceptions. It is time to end this practice. There should be no exemptions or exceptions for it can, and often does, lead to misinterpretation and misconception.

Under Council Special Items of Interest, Councilmember Alvarez asked for further clarification on city policy regarding irrigation. She also asked for a discussion on diversity. She was as clear as mud as to what about diversity she wanted discussed. The city already has very strong diversity policies. Councilmember Martinez requested that the issue of short term rentals be taken up. Councilmember Sherwood asked that the policy of traffic signals flashing at midnight be revised to begin at 10 PM. Vice Mayor Knaack asked that the city consider electronic voting for city council meetings.

It was another meeting short and sweet. So many questions to be asked and so few actually offered.

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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