Meetings of the Delta City Council are generally short and to the point, allowing little time for discussion of long-range goals and objectives. So that was the focus of a work session last week that touched on council roles and responsibilities, committee appointments and expectations.
Beforehand, city manager Justin Clifton had distributed a self-assessment to each councilmember. He compiled the results and discussed the areas most in need of improvement, as indicated by their responses.
They fell into five areas — policy work, discussion and dissent, community relations, roles on committees and the city's financial health.
Much of the policy work is done by city staff, particularly that related to human resources, but councilmembers agreed they would like an opportunity to review those policies more regularly.
They would also like to be more involved in discussions related to streets, property, parks and facilities. Clifton said council direction will also be sought on downtown development as those plans unfold. He suggested a series of work sessions focusing on each topic of specific interest to councilmembers.
Under discussion and dissent, councilmember Ray Penick said the council could do a better job of engaging citizens by discussing agenda items more thoroughly. Most agenda items are accompanied by memos from staff members that the public doesn't see (although they are available online). Those memos provide background about the matter to be voted upon and often include staff recommendations.
Many of those matters, such as liquor license renewals, don't warrant a lot of discussion, councilmember Mary Cooper said. "I'm not big on words for the sake of words."
Penick said discussion — and an explanation — would be most useful when a councilmember casts a dissenting vote. Clifton said an explanation would also be helpful for staff.
Under community relations, councilmembers continued a discussion on how to engage citizens, few of whom attend the bi-monthly council meetings.
The citizen survey administered in 2013 ranked the city low in the areas of responsiveness to the needs of citizens and keeping citizens informed. Clifton asked if the monthly newsletter should be reinstituted. The city could also take advantage of the public access channel available to cable subscribers.
Susan Barkman, a student in CU's public administration program, is currently working on a project to help the city improve citizen outreach. She is currently conducting focus groups and may come up with some suggestions for council.
Councilmembers represent the city on a variety of committees, from Region 10 to Delta County Economic Development. Some meet regularly, while others haven't met at all over the past year. The council went through the list of appointments committee by committee, discussing the council's expectations and how frequently they expected to be updated on those meetings.
The final topic addressed the city's financial health, which was previously identified as one of the biggest threats facing the city. Cash flow, sales tax revenues, utility fees and transfers all affect the city's financial health.
City council members learned sales tax revenues were up 2.5% for 2013, and were $80,000 more than budgeted — a fact they weren't aware of until Clifton provided a report. They asked that information be provided quarterly, along with forecasts for revenues and expenses.
They also want to explore a de-Brucing question for the next general election. Councilmembers see it as a way of increasing revenue without raising fees or increasing taxes. Voters previously rejected the concept, leading councilmembers to wonder if citizens failed to understand the question. They discussed the possibility of asking members of the citizen financial task force to take the lead in educating citizens.blog comments powered by Disqus