Life, Liberty and Leadership

Focused leadership produces results

I think past Encinitas City Councils often lost focus on the needs of residents. 

Many times the Council hired facilitators creating more bureaucracy to the decision making process that cost taxpayers.

An example is the General Plan Update where the city paid the consulting firm MIG near $1 million and residents were unhappy with the results. While successful leadership requires vision, goal setting and strategic planning when focus is lost taxpayers pay the price.

At last week’s council meeting Encinitas City Manager Gus Vina made a presentation recommending the council possibly hire a facilitator to lead the Council in goal setting workshops. Encinitas taxpayers don’t need to spend more money on facilitators. We pay enough for city staff currently.

In April 2000, the City Council heard the results of the vision work performed by then City Manager Kerry Miller. The two leading keywords that came out of this process were “Preservation” and “Character” yet 13 years later the vision the former city council put forth for the future of Encinitas is one of high density housing that destroys community character. It’s clear to me the city lost its focus.

During his presentation the city manager made recommendations to the budgeting process suggesting planning workshops. While planning is an important part of leadership it’s my opinion the financial challenges facing the city are not the result of a lack of planning but rather the result of lost focus.

For example the past council delayed road repairs we needed while approving pension increases we didn’t need. They built new fire stations for some $16 million that we didn’t need while failing to build the Hall Park. Because the council lost their focus the city needed to raid approved capital projects of $7 million and go in debt with a $9 million bond to get the park started. This leaves little money for other projects. It wasn’t that the city failed to prioritize capital projects it’s that they lost focus on serving residents.

One public speaker at the meeting rightly suggested that budgeting for the city doesn’t need to be complicated. City staff should forecast how much money would come in for a given year and the council should then prioritize the projects and determine how the money will be spent. The speaker called this type of annual budgeting “Pay as you go.”

There’s little argument from me that the new city council has inherited many challenges left over from the failed policies of the past 10 years. Our roads need repairs, our storm drains maintained, our parks improved and our pension liabilities cut. We need a General Plan Update that updates our current plan preserving character not a new general plan promoting high-density housing. We need fiscal budgeting that serves the needs of residents not fiscal budgeting that rewards special interests.

More facilitators are not the solution to these problems greater focus is.


1 comment

They Work for Us January 21, 2013 at 7:37 am

The word ‘focus’ is a polite one. There is another word that comes to mind, which is ‘ethics’.

For too long, we have had City employees and elected officials, who once placed into positions of power, forget that they are charged to represent citizens, not their own interests or special interests.

Let us hope that our new council will show the courage to hold City staff and managers accountable for their actions.

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