Monday, July 9

NC7 Agenda

Monday, July 9, 2007
Heisey Center, 313 7th Street North
6:30 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.




    1. Approval of June minutes
    2. Problem properties

      1. 824 6th Avenue North
      2. 512/516 6th Street North
      3. 916 3rd Avenue North

    3. Graffiti on 3rd Avenue North between 9th and 10th Street
    4. 9th Street Traffic – results of city study
    5. Mitchell Pool
    6. Weed and Seed Application Status
    7. Riverfest booth
    8. Single Polling location letter


    1. Downtown Task Force – Brett Doney from GFDA
    2. Problem properties

      1. 112 12st North – per email from Mike Taylor
      2. 601 5th Avenue North —Dona Walker

    3. 2nd Avenue South Sidewalks – Aaron Weissman
    4. Neighborhood Concerns


    1. City Commission
    2. Police Advisory Board


Next Meeting – August 13, 2007, Gibson Room, Civic Center

Tuesday, July 3

You Get What You Pay For

Recently, there have been a lot of complaints about how our city commission does little other than rubber stamp the decisions of city staff. I wonder why we are all so surprised. I also wonder why anyone would run for such a position.

We pay our city commission nothing. We pay our mayor about $9k a year. Therefore, we have created a situation where all we can hope to get in these jobs are part-time volunteers.

I believe that our current mayor and commissioners are a group of decent, hardworking and committed volunteers. However, that is all they are. They are part time amateurs who depend on full time professional city staffers. In addition to "overseeing" a $90 Million organization (that pays them bubkis), they also have to find ways to put food on their plates and a roof over their heads. Is there any wonder why they are ineffective?

We, the people of Great Falls, have determined that we want to be governed by staff and with loose oversight by our elected public servants. When you have a deadline at work, do you put it aside to handle something going on at an organization for which you volunteer? Is it reasonable to expect more out of our commission?

Yes, they did run for those jobs. Yes, they should be held accountable for their decisions. However, we all need to realize that we are lying in a bed of our own making.

Animal Welfare and City Oversight

I have spent a great deal of time reading through (at least some) of the information that has been posted on various websites on this issue. Unfortunately, this looks like a situation where unprofessionalism and lack of communication have exploded into an unnecessary crisis.

First and foremost, we, the citizens, owe Geeguy a debt of at least gratitude for the time he spends researching issues that affect our body politic. A lawyer's time is a very expensive commodity, and I do not see where Geeguy is spending that time in any way that personally benefits him (other than as a citizen of our community). Geeguy, thank you very much for the thorough and balanced information and opinions you have presented. Unfortunately, you will see nothing so thorough in these pages.

However, I would also like to put in my 2¢. What I am going to say has less to do with the specifics of animal control issues in our town and more to do with a general philosophy of how to run this particular railroad.

In this case, we have a contract set to expire. This is a great time to reevaluate how things are to be done and for a governmental agency to define its requirements. It is also a great time to continue the evaluation of an incumbent contractor.

It is not, however, the best time to first discuss problems that the incumbent contractor may have had with the operation of their existing contract. Like many that have posted on this subject, the first I heard that there was a problem was when it came up on the front page of the paper. Now, I hear that there is a dysfunctional board and many complaints about the Humane Society's operation of the facility.

The time to bring these issues up is DURING contract performance; most specifically during regular contract progress meetings. If performance was bad, why have there been no written letters, cure notices, meeting minute notes, etc.? Why are we just hearing about this now?

Worse, the problems we have heard about seem minute, unsubstantiated and subjective. Even more shocking, the story published today in the paper (but not online) said that city officials have not investigated even problems.

So, because of unsubstantiated allegations that have never been documented, we are being asked to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased annual expenses. I can't wait for the justification for the coming bond issue.

Now, I haven't looked at the RFP the city put out this Spring. However, for a contract of this size (five years at $200k - $500k/year), it would be very reasonable to expect a contract with a rigidly defined Statement of Work / Performance Work Statement setting specific requirements and performance objectives. These specific requirements and performance objectives should be constructed in ways to make them measurable. Then, the resulting metrics should be analyzed during regular contract performance review meetings. To be really innovative, contract payments could be tied to those metrics (incentives for performance?? Shocking!)

Quite frankly, I have read reports in blog comments that I certainly hope are not true. However, we should all hold our city leaders accountable if (when) they present us the bill for their lack of management.

Back in town

Wow; leave for ten days and it looks like a whole year worth of city news happens. I think there are more than 100 blog posts on ECB and Firefly that look extremely relevant. That, and trying to find my desk for all the stack of papers.

The wife and I took our first vacation of more than a few days in about a decade. We drove to Washington and visited some incredible wineries along I-5 South of Portland. We stayed in campgrounds (usually KOA) along the way; it was a great amount of fun.

Anyway, it looks like tonight's city commission meeting will be fairly interesting. More later ...