Our View: Take me to your leader
City manager asked to work on her relationship with City Council members
It is perfectly acceptable that Steamboat Springs City Council often is split, 4-3, on the issues. But the council owes it to its city manager to speak with one voice when assigning her tasks
Not even two weeks have passed since we last editorialized on what has been a curiously drawn out performance review process for City Manager Deb Hinsvark. But we can’t resist weighing in again.
During the review conducted in executive session last week, the Steamboat Springs City Council asked Hinsvark to improve her relationship with each of the seven council members, and she responded positively, saying that she is up for the task. But we think council members have some work to do in that area, as well.
We think some of the communication breakdown between council members and their sole employee can be attributed to process.
To begin, we think it’s important to point out that our city’s home rule charter does not have an elected mayor. Instead, we have a system of a city manager working for a City Council with a council president presiding over meetings.
Since 2000, several city councils here have experienced rocky communication with city managers going back to Jon Roberts and Alan Lanning. Could that be attributed to the fact that we don’t have a mayor who is easily identifiable as “the boss”? We think it’s worth some thought.
Given our system of municipal government, we think that the annual public budget hearings followed by a council retreat or goal-setting meeting are critical events for setting the course of action for Steamboat Springs and the action plan of its city manager.
The portion of the budget process in which the city’s five-year capital improvements plan is reset should give the city executive a clear picture of what major projects are priorities. Within that process, capital projects that are important and urgent should be identified, which move them to the top of the to-do list for the city manager.
Augmenting the budget hearing is the annual City Council retreat or goal-setting meeting. This City Council had a facilitated retreat in January followed by a separate goal-setting meeting in March.
Together, they should form the foundation for establishing priorities for the city manager and communicating them.
City Council member Kenny Reisman had no problem communicating in mid-July when he called for a quick response to the scarcity of recycling bins in the burgeoning dining and entertainment district on Yampa Street.
“It’s jamming down there. We all know it,” Reisman said. “There’s trash by the day that’s piling up. There’s recycling getting thrown in the trash, as well. Let’s get a move on.”
Other council members were hesitant, preferring to wait until precise costs were known, but ultimately the vote to take action that night was unanimous.
Adding half a dozen recycling receptacles on a busy downtown street is a modest accomplishment, but we think it’s a concrete example of process supporting effective communication between City Council and Hinsvark. That’s because the decision to give the public better facilities on Yampa was in alignment with a goal that council set back in the spring.
That goal read: “We serve as a community leader in sustainability by conducting daily operations with a focus on resource efficiency, cost effectiveness and respect for the natural environment.”
We hope that more of that kind of action driven by written goals will be the result of the recent clearing of the air between City Council and the city manager.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Friday, Jan. 15, 2021