The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 21, 2011

To council: Take reins off city manager

Robin L. Quillon
rquillon@tribdem.com

— I have eight words for Johnstown City Council members: Please let the city manager do her job!

As far as I know, the main duties of a city manager are:

-- “Supervision of day-to-day operations of all departments and staff, directly and through department heads.”

A good leader knows a business operates best when you rely on department heads and staff to get the job done.

You are reading this newspaper today because of, among other people, highly skilled pressmen.

As the publisher, I know the basics of how a printing press works, but there is no way I could run ours.

My team probably has forgotten more about operating the machine than I know.

Micromanaging those individuals, because I can, would be counterproductive to the process of getting the newspaper to you every day.

City council’s involvement in the Point Stadium and Roxbury Bandshell concession stand sales contracts is counterproductive. The Point’s contract should have been signed already. It should be extended immediately with SMG.

SMG personnel have done an outstanding job and deserve an extension now, and an invitation to bid the next time around. They have turned around the War Memorial operation and have proven they are up to the task.

I’m confident City Manager Kristen Denne can negotiate this contract. Maybe I am missing something, but I don’t believe a contract to sell hot dogs, chicken fingers and hamburgers requires deep thought and contemplation at high levels on city council.  

The concessions contracts for both the Point and bandshell are typical minutia the city manager should handle. There has to be more pressing issues facing city council.

I agree with many things Jack Williams does as he serves on council, but, Jack, please stop wasting the city manager’s time by filing unnecessary freedom-of-information requests. You have abused this legal technique because you can, not only with this manager but with the former manager.

It is time to stop tying up the city manager and other members of the City Hall staff and let them do their jobs.

-- “Oversight of all hiring, firing, disciplining and suspensions.”

Some citizens and some on council may not like the decisions the manager has made regarding city personnel. But this is her job. She was hired to right the city’s financial ship. In business, you either raise revenues or cut expenses. It is one or the other. To accomplish this requires tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. But if the oversight of personnel is allowed to become a political football, gridlock, indecision and inaction happen.

As a result, the can continues to get kicked down the distressed city road.     

-- “Preparation, monitoring and execution of the city budget, which includes submitting each year to the council a proposed budget package with options and recommendations for its consideration and possible approval.”

This is often the point where a good city manager’s ideas and plans are scuttled due to political wrangling and lack of mayoral leadership. The next budget process should be interesting to witness.

-- “Main technical adviser to the council on overall governmental operations.”

This is why you hire a city manager.

This person is trained to “run the presses,” so to speak.

-- “Public relations, such as meeting with citizens, citizen groups, businesses and other stakeholders.”

That’s self-explanatory, and we would expect many on council who have been long-time Johnstown residents would assist the young city manager in meeting business and community leaders and other residents.

We would also expect that means making yourself available to the media, and, to this point, The Tribune-Democrat has not had complaints with Denne’s willingness to discuss issues.

-- “Operating the city with a profes-sional understanding of how all city functions operate together to their best effect.”

For this to happen, the city council needs to stop micromanaging and please let the city manager do her job!



Robin L. Quillon is publisher of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at rquillon@tribdem.com.

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