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City Council Shuns Resolution Setting Capital Project Management Standards
June 29, 2001

At the City Council meeting of June 26, my motion to adopt a resolution providing minimum capital project management standards died for lack of  a second. (For a copy of the resolution, see TOM BUTT E-FORUM 6/16: RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA, ESTABLISHING MINIMUM INTERIM CAPITAL PROJECT ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES). The resolution had been circulated widely for review and comment for ten days without any negative criticism. All suggestions made by City staff and citizens were incorporated into the final draft. It enjoyed wide support by citizens and management level city staff members who have been complaining about the lack of such standards for years.

Despite the fact that the City is embarking on the largest capital improvement program in decades and has no standards or procedures in place for managing such programs, and failure to have such standard in place has resulted in major problems in past projects, the City Council failed to act. Why would such a thing happen? Chalk it up to political turf protection. No one had any criticism for the content of the resolution, but within the culture of the Richmond City Council, there are two unwritten rules:

1.   Donít support an initiative of a single council member, no matter how well crafted or how well meaning, because it may give that council member a political advantage. If the initiative has merit, get it assigned to a committee or referred to the city manager in order to dilute and obfuscate its origin.

2.   If the city manager objects, because he should have taken care of business and didnít, and wants to have another chance, the City Council consents.

 

Personally, I always thought a good idea was a good idea, regardless of the source. Thatís my political philosophy. Sometimes, things just need to get done and get done quickly before any more damage is done. Thatís why I acted.

To the city managerís credit, he acknowledged the help that my suggestion would provide in crafting a capital projects management policy. He promised to have a policy back to the City Council in two weeks. He has supported me and taken steps of his own to drastically improve the capacity to manage capital projects, including hiring a new public services director, retaining an outside consulting team to assist in management, and much more. I didnít write this to criticize the city manager; I just wanted to vent my frustration regarding the political fetters that impede the ability to simply role up oneís sleeves and get something done. I am the only member of the City Council who has owned and operated a  business in the private sector for any appreciable length of time. One of the reasons I enjoy being a private entrepreneur is the ability to make decisions and get things done. Working in the political management of a city is a whole different world to me than the one  leave at the office on Tuesday afternoon. Collegiality turns to competition, truth turns to mush and common interest turns to turf protection. ďWhy do I keep coming back?Ē people ask me. Because it is important, and people are counting on me. ďDo you enjoy this?Ē people inquire. I guess I enjoy the challenge of accomplishing things that need to be done, but I canít say the process is much fun. Itís nice to go back to work in my other job on Wednesday morning.

 

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