The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Is city government informing its part-time elected leaders well enough?

In City Hall, Floods, Justin Shields, Monica Vernon on August 15, 2008 at 2:10 am

Is it a power struggle of some sort at City Hall?

Suddenly this week, council member Justin Shields announced that he wanted the council next week to vote to hire a new staff member of some sort to specifically assist the nine-member, part-time City Council. The council now depends largely on administrative support from the city manager’s office.

Shields offered no explanation for his demand, though council member Monica Vernon in recent weeks has commented that she has difficulty getting enough and timely information from the city’s management in this crucial time as the city recovers from a historic flood.

In a matter not unrelated, Shields this week also said he wanted the council next week to vote to support a flood-recovery initiative being proposed, in part, by some of the most influential private-sector leaders and companies in the city. It’s tentatively called the Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp.

A few weeks ago, Vernon floated a not dissimilar idea to a chilly reception by some of her council colleagues.

For her part, Vernon likes the idea of help from the corporate world and other local worlds, and she recently said she wants the council to be working with the fastest and strongest in the city to move the city ahead in the aftermath of June’s historic flood.

Council members suggest items for consideration by the full council and by city staff, but rarely is it done with such insistence as it was done this week by Shields.

Also this week, a member of City Hall’s own Recovery and Reinvestment Coordinating Team suggested the creation of a housing task force to make recommendations to the coordinating team and then the council. This team, which includes City Manager Jim Prosser and representatives from the county, schools, Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown District, United Way, the Affordable Housing Network, Hawkeye Labor Council and others, meets often and provides reports to the City Council.

Vernon wanted to know who would be naming people to the new housing task force, and then made it clear she expected that the City Council would interview people and name them and not have anyone appoint the members.

It has been Vernon and Shields, too, who in recent weeks have questioned whether the City Council should continue to keep the city in a state of emergency. The council agreed to the emergency status for the city in the days after the June flood. The state of emergency permits the approval of certain actions with the signature of the mayor.

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  1. Good Lord, wherever do I start…

    “council member Justin Shields announced that he wanted the council next week to vote to hire a new staff member of some sort to specifically assist the nine-member, part-time City Council.”

    Perhaps they can hire his longtime trusted confidant Alan Bernard? I hear he needs a job.

    “Monica Vernon in recent weeks has commented that she has difficulty getting enough and timely information from the city’s management ”

    No shit Sherlock. Maybe now you understand that Sarah Henderson was right to question the “management” and their infinite lack of getting her information in a timely manner like oh say the 37 page reorganiztion plan for the city government just a mere 24 hours before being expected to rubber stamp it.

    “It has been Vernon and Shields, too, who in recent weeks have questioned whether the City Council should continue to keep the city in a state of emergency.”

    Interesting. Why is it only in times of emergency or near bankruptcy that the city does the utterly stupid things like their approval of special overtime pay for salaried employees or increasing the council’s own salaries while laying a third of the city employees off?

    These people need to stay part time becuse I fear what damage they could if they were at city hall full time.

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