During my campaign for a City Council seat, people constantly told me ‘It’s Time for a Change.’ When asked what they wanted to see changed, the answer was always that they wanted to see a change of personnel at the head of City government. With my win, one City Council position was changed. Mission Accomplished? 

Now the streets are wondering if anything changed at all. They are asking if I’m just like the rest of them. In fact, some are even saying I drank the Kool-Aid and have become part of the same political machine that I fought against to get on City Council. If you ask anyone from that machine if I’m part of their team, I’d be really curious how they’d answer.

For the second time since I’ve been on Council, the Mayor has abruptly ended a City Council meeting without allowing Council members to have comments. Before I got on Council, there were hardly any comments made by Council members and since I arrived every one of us has something prepared to share at the end of the meeting. Since this practice of abruptly ending meetings seems to be becoming a troubling trend, I’ve been forced to stop staying silent on my blog about what’s going on in City government. Yes, I’m back to blogging. 

Change of Direction

I can’t tell you where Chester is headed. For a group of people who have been working together for years, the city leaders present no clear path for a future for Chester. 

All I continue to hear from them is how bad the Republicans left things for the Democrats when they took over 11-years ago, especially with regards to inheriting a broke city from the Republicans. The Mayor prides himself on 5-straight years of a balanced budget, but refused to tell us that there were things not on the balance sheet, like a skyrocketing pension obligation, that has us in receivership now. 

Chester can’t continue to ignore our biggest problems by kicking the can down the road hoping, and not planning, for a sound future. 

Change of leadership style

Obviously, if you’re not going in a particular direction, anybody can lead you anywhere. Since joining City Council, with all the problems we’re facing, I can count on half of one hand the number of meetings to strategize or confer on the city’s future that we’ve had as a body. Even if things were going well for the city, it would take some work to keep it that way. The lack of communication is alarming. But, if you have nothing to talk about, like how the city is moving forward, it becomes every man for themselves all marching to a different drum beat. If it weren’t for the Receiver and his project team, there would hardly be any meetings of importance at all within City departments. 

The Wall between the Receiver and the City

The reason the city has such a hard time with the Receiver is because his team is here to chart a new course for Chester that will get us out of fiscal ruin. For some strange reason, there seems to be an attitude that we don’t want the Receiver to uncover and make public how bad things are. But, until he does that, nothing gets fixed. Chester can’t continue going year after year not fixing anything. Instead of embracing the seemingly unlimited resources that comes along with the Receiver to resolve our issues, I constantly hear how much the city disagrees with his methods, finding, solutions, authority, salary, staff, hometown, hairstyle and so on. 

The Receiver’s project planning methodology is foreign to a city government that traditionally manages on the fly. The Receiver’s project management methodology is the most efficient and effective way to get thing done in business. But, unless we find people to run this city like the $60 million dollar business that it is, nothing will change. 

Employees are in need of training

I’ve never worked anywhere where I didn’t get a performance review. Those reviews determine raises, promotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Without them, how do you know what your most valuable resources (the employees) are worth? I don’t know when Chester city ever did a performance review. As a result, we’ve got many employees who don’t have common office productivity tool knowledge. You can’t be effective in the workplace unless everyone knows how to use email, MS Office, Google Drive, Adobe, and the Internet, if these are the tools you’re using throughout the enterprise. Soft skills as simple as returning phone calls and following up on requests are not a standard practice among city employees. 

Every new hire should go through an orientation. I’m one of the most recent new hires and it took quite an effort to clear out my office from the old Councilman, get a computer, email address, door key, paycheck and benefits. I received absolutely no information from the former councilperson who directed my department to help orient me to the responsibilities and projects I was responsible for (which goes back to the lack of overall direction in City government). My office phone just started working last week, six months into the job.  

An Ethics policy would be a welcome change

The Mayor was confronted by a lady at a City Council meeting who wasn’t too happy that he took donations from people wanting to bring their business to Chester. His response was that it was legal. That’s like saying, I can’t be arrested for making a bad decision. What ethic policies do is provide a rule book to help protect public officials from making bad decisions that create horrible optics or imply perceived shenanigans that may indeed be legal but could be harmful to the city and its clients/citizens. An ethics policy shows we make decisions responsibly. It shows we value integrity. And it provides a clear point of reference when enforcing corrective action.

I’m in charge of Public Property and Recreation, and, if I had my way, that’s all I’d work on. But, I’m drafting an ethics policy for the City and expect to have us vote on implementing it in the near future. 

I’m not sure how anyone defines Change when it comes to Chester City officials, but my position on Chester City Council has changed quite a bit in the first 6-months with a lot more to come. You may not see the impact of having someone new on Council that’s not part of the old machine, and you certainly don’t see the microaggressions that come with the turf, but I’m still that agent of change, something this city government needs a lot more of.

Change Curve : From shock to integration

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