July 1, 2013
TIME TO AUDIT THE CITY MANAGER

FORETHOUGHT
INTENT: To connect the performance of the City Manager with the Council

The City Manager is the one who implements the Council's policies. This is where the rubber should hit the road. The City Manager only reports to the Council. They are the ones tasked with seeing to it that their policies and directives are being carried out as intended.

Cities have two basic ways of raising revenue:

  1. Improve house values. This is a win-win strategy. There is a built in incentive; more effort on the part of the City to make itself desirable, equals more revenue. Everyone wins.
  2. Raising taxes is a lose-lose strategy, particularly if it is for operating revenue.

 

Burien 2012


In April of 2012, my City passed Ordinance 561. This law clarified the banks responsibility about abandoned bank repos. A house that is in foreclosure and has been unoccupied 90 days must be maintained by its bank owner. This should have been a win-win, but failure to enforce this ordinance led to a lose-lose outcome.

In December of 2012, the City needed more money. To get that money the City Manager proposed doubling the electrical tax. This was shortsighted, and costly to everyone. Property values continued to plunge, another $20,000 was lost by each homeowner that year.

Some of this was related to the poor condition the City was in. A percentage of it was related to the fact that banks will only loan homeowners an amount based on percentage of income. This consideration takes into account the amount for: principal, interest, and taxes. Raising taxes required the homeowner, who wanted to sell, to reduce their price to accommodate this ongoing cost 'increase. Its an affordability issue. And, the City was taking money without giving anything in return.

 

Audits


Under State law, City Councils are not allowed to micro manage the City Manager. They are, however, allowed to audit the departments that report to the City Manager. In this proposal I am asking “What does it take for these departments to become compliant with the laws and ordinances the City has on record?”.

I believe this is important information for the Council and the community to know. Being able to answer these question will enable Burien to hire a top tier City Manager, and turn the situation around.

 

City Manager Evaluation

Every year, the City Council evaluates the City Manager's performance. There are 5 areas that are evaluated:

  1. Community Relations
  2. Intergovernmental Relations
  3. Communication
  4. Policy making / Vision implementation
  5. Management of Organization

The outcome of these evaluations determine whether the City Manager's employment will continue.

Both of the local media outlets in Burien acquired these evaluations through the Public Records Disclosure. The B-Town Blog's article is here.

 

Tying it together

In my presentation, I will be covering a lot of ground. I will be calling into question the performance of the City Council's oversight of the City Manager.

 

TEXT OF SPEECH

A couple weeks ago the King County assessor's office published the latest property values for Burien. We lost almost 10% in property value compared to last year. That means each homeowner lost $20K in net worth. That is $400 a week per home in losses. This shouldn't have happened. The City Manager requested Ordinance 561 to deal with the abandoned bank repo problems in April 2012, and did nothing to enforce it for over a year until pressured by the public. Of course, as property values declined, so did revenues to the city.

When the City needed an extra $93,000 late last year due to revenue shortfalls, the City Manager proposed doubling our electrical tax. This was the same time frame that the Council did the reviews of the City Manager. The members that gave glowing reviews were the same members who voted to tax us because the City Manager did not provide the City employees with the directive to use their camera phones to report these houses to Code Enforcement.

As long as this Council cannot agree on such a basic thing as what the City Manager's job description is, we will continue to get poor performance from the City Manager, and a general decline in the value of Burien as a whole.

I have attached a copy of an audit request for the City Manager's office to the City Clerk's copy. This information will help us determine what is necessary to make this City proactive in Code Enforcement, Finance, Planning, and Public Works.

Tacoma, many years ago publicly declared war on slumlords, and took action. Today, the City of Destiny is turning around, and so can we, by taking action.

 

I propose:

  • The Council audit the departments that report to the City Manager.
    1. This will help determine what resources these departments need to proactively enforce the ordinances and mandates the Council passes.
    2. This will put all departments on a proactive approach, not just Code Compliance.

  • Establish a concise job description that uses Washington State Law and ordinance enforcement as a starting point for defining the City Manager's responsibilities.
    1. Having a unified Council will make the selection of a new City Manager easier.
    2. Evaluations will be easier. The City Manager is either doing the job or not.

  • Define good faith effort in Code Compliance with these bank repos and slumlords as “If a problem can be seen at the posted speed limit, it needs to be dealt with”.

  • The implementation of these proposals will allow the public to see and have confidence that our tax monies are being spent wisely.

I believe that if the Council publicly announces an adoption of a proactive approach to governance, the City will attract more newcomers to Burien.

  • Unoccupied foreclosed homes that are an eyesore will now contribute to the livability of the neighborhoods by being cleaned up by the Banks.
  • Home prices will increase.
  • Homes that are sitting empty and draining the City coffers will find new owners.
  • These new homeowners will bring tens of millions of dollars in new income into our City. This will help ignite the business comeback in Burien. Job creation will start to happen here in Burien, and the City will flourish.

 

RCW 35A.13.080

City manager — Powers and duties.

The powers and duties of the city manager shall be:

  1. To have general supervision over the administrative affairs of the code city;

  2. To appoint and remove at any time all department heads, officers, and employees of the code city, except members of the council, and subject to the provisions of any applicable law, rule, or regulation relating to civil service: PROVIDED, That the council may provide for the appointment by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the council, of a city planning commission, and other advisory citizens' committees, commissions, and boards advisory to the city council: PROVIDED FURTHER, That if the municipal judge of the code city is appointed, such appointment shall be made by the city manager subject to confirmation by the council, for a four year term. The council may cause an audit to be made of any department or office of the code city government and may select the persons to make it, without the advice or consent of the city manager;

  3. To attend all meetings of the council at which his or her attendance may be required by that body;

  4. To see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully executed, subject to the authority which the council may grant the mayor to maintain law and order in times of emergency;

  5. To recommend for adoption by the council such measures as he or she may deem necessary or expedient;

  6. To prepare and submit to the council such reports as may be required by that body or as he or she may deem it advisable to submit;

  7. To keep the council fully advised of the financial condition of the code city and its future needs;

  8. To prepare and submit to the council a proposed budget for the fiscal year, as required by chapter 35A.33 RCW, and to be responsible for its administration upon adoption;

  9. To perform such other duties as the council may determine by ordinance or resolution.


[2009 c 549 § 3025; 1987 c 3 § 17; 1967 ex.s. c 119 § 35A.13.080.]
Notes:
     Severability -- 1987
c 3: See note following RCW 3.70.010.

 

 

RECONNAISSANCE
July 1, 2013

I refer to the drop in home values. That information can be found at the local County Assessor's office.
Pointing out the continued decline underscores the lack of focus of the City Manager and Council.

The City Manager's evaluation enabled me to determine who supported the policies. That information was available through the local media. If they don't publish it, it can be acquired through a Public Records Request.
The evaluation highlights the incongruity between expectation and performance of the City Manager.

I want an audit of the City Manager's office to determine what it takes to make the City compliant with its own laws. Law allows for an audit of the departments that report to the City Manager.
Audits are something that the Council should have done prior.

I refer to Ordinance 561. That was the law that was put into effect to manage the foreclosed Bank REO's. It was never implemented by the City Manager. If your City has problems, it probably is not a lack of laws, rather a lack of enforcement. A good place to look is in the Municipal Code and note the date it became effective. Reviewing the video of that Ordinance's passage will provide a greater depth of information.
Pointing out that the City Manager isn't enforcing the laws he requests casts doubt about Council oversight.

I want a definition of good faith effort, as required by law.
Lack of consensus about the City Manager's job description is highlighted by his evaluation.

I refer to the City raising taxes for the general fund when other avenues were available. Specifically, cleaning up problem properties to increase value. A good place to look for raising taxes is going to be the Council Packet, the Council Videos, or the local Media.
Raising taxes instead of having the City Manager do his job points to the real problem – the Council.

 

 

AFTERTHOUGHT

A mad as hell Tea Party person shares one common belief with a disillusioned Occupier; things could be better in government. Taking the time to speak- effectively- is the one thing that will define your campaign. Laying out the story of what is happening, without the theatrics, will change the course of this Country one City at a time.

Change is already underway, here in Burien. The rest of the country may take a couple of more years. If this sounds audacious, consider this piece: This isn't about thousands of people milling about, angry and blaming. Rather its about an individual engaging political indiscretions with the clear intent of changing those policies.

Auditing the City Manager's office is a great place to start that process of changing the course of the Country.