A few short weeks ago, the Peoria City Council and city manager were engaged in a discussion regarding our respective responsibilities in the council-manager form of municipal government. It was a good interchange, especially for our four newly-elected Council members. As a brief refresher, the Council hires the city manager and holds him or her accountable for the efficient and effective administration of city government. Issues and concerns regarding the manner in which we provide public services—and the individuals who provide leadership to our operations—are addressed through the city manager. Overall governance—decisions as to policy, the statutory framework within which we govern, affordability and representation of our residents—is the Council’s job.
The Council’s role is much easier when the city organization functions in an efficient manner—accomplishing the most work with a minimal amount of overlap or duplication. If we are truly efficient, we have operational effectiveness—providing city services characterized by value and quality. As you read this, the Council and manager are in the midst of discussing the 2014 budget, and questions of efficiency and effectiveness of our administrative structure and operation are of prime importance.
I am pleased to say that as we enter these budget discussions, we have a definite advantage over previous years. Our efficiency and effectiveness have been substantially strengthened with the structural reorganization, which continues to take place. Similar to the situation in a well-run private business, organizational adjustments are an ongoing process to reflect changing customer (in our case, taxpayer) expectations and needs. Peoria city government is, of course, different from the private sector, in that we cannot raise prices to cover costs or maintain profit expectations. Fundamentally, we operate on tax dollars and continue to be dedicated to stable, affordable and reasonable tax rates.
All of this is to say that getting the most value for your tax dollar rests on the efficiency and effectiveness of our administration. Peoria has a very good story to tell on this score.
Prior to the organizational changes accomplished by City Manager Patrick Urich and his staff, that office had 15 entities directly reporting to it. As it stands now, that number is nine. Organizational experts will tell you that even nine direct reports are too many, but for the time being, this certainly works for Peoria. As a matter of record, the nine areas reporting to the city manager are: police, fire, public works, community development, information systems, finance, legal, human resources and assistant city manager. In the case of the assistant city manager, he is the direct liaison with information systems, and also oversees the emergency communications center and Peoria Cares (our direct access “customer” service program).
Perhaps the most significant organizational change, in terms of individuals impacted, was the creation of the community development department. This new group brought together planning and growth management (zoning); inspections (building and code enforcement); and economic development. This sensible merging achieves not only a more efficient structure and understanding of “who does what,” but also increases effectiveness in terms of “turn-around time” on requests for service.
Other important organizational adjustments included moving equal employment opportunity to human resources, streamlining reporting relationships within the information services department, and creating the positions of assistant police chief and assistant city manager. The legal department will likely experience organizational refinement when a new corporation counsel is named.
Hand in hand with efficiency and effectiveness in our organization improvements was the launching of a new city website in February. Peoriagov.org is proving to be a huge benefit to residents and city staff in terms of time savings, information availability and clarity of content. For example, the city has new leadership in several departments, and with three clicks, you can quickly pinpoint who is responsible for each. As reference, these “new faces” include Mary Ann Stalcup (Human Resources), Mike Rogers (Public Works), Ross Black (Community Development), Sam Rivera (Information Services) and Chris Setti (Assistant City Manager).
At the beginning of this column, I briefly outlined the respective roles and accountabilities of the City Council and city manager. On a day-to-day basis, and as a practical matter, all communications between Council members and staff do not flow through the manager’s office. Requests for services—such as help for a particular neighborhood or resident, clarifications to zoning and economic development initiatives, and assistance from our fire and police departments—number in the hundreds every day. But when it comes to holding our administration accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of Peoria city government, we have one employee. Our system works quite well, and it will continue to do so with a professional and dedicated staff and an accessible, well-informed City Council. iBi