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

Posts Tagged ‘Rockwell Collins’

At private-sector’s push, City Council launches quest for flood-recovery manager with a job description fit for Superman

In City Hall, Floods on April 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm

More than five weeks have passed now since council member Tom Podzimek suggested that an unsuccessful move by three council members related to a flood-recovery CEO was tantamount to a coup d’état.

Council members Justin Shields, Monica Vernon and Jerry McGrane all wanted this flood-recovery chief to bypass City Manager Jim Prosser and report directly to them and the other six on the City Council. But the other six dismissed the notion out of hand. The city charter calls for one CEO who reports to the council, not two, the six said.

With all the pizzazz of government overthrow now put aside, the council still is in the process of filling the position that Shields and Vernon, in particular, had agitated for.

All of the council members have gotten in line behind the position — the job is now called flood-recovery manager and the person filling it will report to Prosser — and it comes with an unusual twist. The city’s largest employer, Rockwell Collins, has pushed for the City Hall position, and Rockwell Collins is joining other private-sector contributors to pay most of the cost of the public-sector flood-recovery manager.

Conni Huber, the city’s human resources director, last week noted that the council resolution creating the position anticipates that 80 percent of the cost will be paid by private-sector corporations and/or people.

Huber last week also reported to the City Council that a multi-stepped process is underway to try to fill the flood-recovery manager position. There have been two sessions in which the public offered suggestions about the qualifications and experience that the new flood-recovery manager should possess. Council members have weighed in on the matter, too, and others have filled out surveys via the city’s Web page, Huber said.

It wasn’t clear if there was anyone in America who could fill the role after Huber had told the council what kind of person that the public and council members said they were looking for.

The new manager will need to be a top-notch coordinator, a person who can make connections, someone who is a great communicator, who can become the “face of Cedar Rapids flood recovery and reinvestment,” Huber said. The new manager must be expert in finding funding and someone who can quantify how much he or she is accomplishing. The new manager must be a leader, a consensus-builder, articulate, an effective advocate for Cedar Rapids, experienced in disaster recovery and have an advanced degree in public administration, management or some other relevant field.

After Huber finished, Mayor Kay Halloran asked, “Do you feel you can find people (to meet the qualifications)?”

“I always have to be optimistic,” Huber said. “People are out there,” she assured. The task, she added, was to connect with them.

The city now has begun to advertise the new job and hopes to have a list of applicants by May 4.

Interviews will be held June 1 and 2 with council members and others with the hope that the job will be filled by the June 12/13 anniversary of the 2008 flood.

The private-sector push by Rockwell Collins to have a private-sector-backed presence inside City Hall came even as a different local private-sector initiative here created something called the Economic Planning & Redevelopment Corp. The City Council has contributed $50,000 to the EPRC and Linn County about half that amount, but it’s a little murky what the mission of the EPRC’s director, Doug Neumann, will be once the private sector has a flood-recovery manager inside City Hall.

Council member Chuck Wieneke has suggested that the City Council take back its $50,000 from the EPRC now that the city is creating a new position at City Hall.

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Seeming calm after City Hall storm: Private sector still will help pay for so-called flood CEO no matter who he or she reports to

In City Hall, Floods on March 12, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Dust settled Thursday at City Hall after a City Council dispute the night before in which a council majority asserted the primacy of the city manager as the council’s singular top employee.

A key question left after a 6-3 vote on Wednesday evening was whether unnamed private-sector people would be willing to help fund a new flood coordinator for the city if the person reported to City Manager Jim Prosser and not directly to the City Council.

The private sector is willing, council member Monica Vernon reported on Thursday.

By way of background, Tom Hobson, senior manager for government affairs at Rockwell Collins, on Thursday said Rockwell Collins leaders convened a meeting last week with local business figures, Gov. Chet Culver and city officials, a meeting which included Vernon, council member Justin Shields and Prosser.

Hobson said what emerged at the meeting was an agreement on the need to hire a new specialist working for city government and “dedicated” solely to flood recovery. In agreeing to help fund the position, those from the private sector never insisted that that the so-called flood CEO report directly to the City Council and not the city manager, Hobson said.

Vernon and Shields on Wednesday evening tried to make a case with the a council majority that the new flood specialist should bypass Prosser and report directly to the council. Before the council vote on the matter, Shields wondered if the council first should check to see if the private-sector help to fund the position was contingent on such an arrangement.

On Thursday, Vernon said a private fundraising effort is now under way to raise money to help fund the new flood coordinator at City Hall who reports to Prosser.

A week ago, Vernon and Shields reported to the council that the private sector would foot the entire bill. On Wednesday evening, the two said the city would pay 20 percent of the cost. On Thursday, Rockwell[‘]s Hobson said there is no specific percentage that will be paid by the private sector. It will be a joint public-private effort, he said.

On Wednesday evening, both Vernon and Shields insisted that it was necessary for the new specialist — Vernon has termed the position a flood-recovery CEO — to report directly to the council, not Prosser.

Six of nine council members instantly rejected the line-of-authority component of the proposal, saying the design of the city’s government charter and the council/manager form of government calls for the council to have one CEO, which is Prosser’s role, and not two.

Most colorfully, council member Tom Podzimek accused Vernon and Shields of trying to “overthrow” the city’s form of government, and he said he wouldn’t stand for it.

Vernon argued that the city needed to try something different because the current setup in which everything flows through the city manager hasn’t been working.

To that, council member Kris Gulick said if Vernon thought things weren’t working well, they likely would work worse under the organizational design that she and Shields had in mind. Gulick said having a city staff taking directions from two bosses was a bad idea.

Council member Pat Shey agreed. He said that Vernon and Shields needed to try to convince the council to replace the city manager if that was their wish and not try to do an end run around him.

On Thursday, Gulick said the council did agree unanimously that it made sense to get “more hands on deck” to help with flood recovery.

Meanwhile, Prosser on Thursday was calling the whole debate over CEOs “theoretical” and “largely irrelevant.” He said he would have been able to work through any arrangement.

The debate was anything but irrelevant on Wednesday evening.

“I don’t know what the big issue is with who he is going to report to,” said an embittered Shields, who was on the losing end of a 6-3 vote that never had a chance. “… You people just have something in your mind that says the city manager is in complete control of everything. I just don’t understand that. I never will.”

C-SPAN junkies see Rockwell Collins chief tell Obama, face to face, that Cedar Rapids needs help

In Floods, Uncategorized on February 14, 2009 at 1:16 pm

For anyone who failed to spend Friday evening watching C-SPAN, you missed a chance to see President Obama address The Business Council, which describes itself as “an association of the chief executive officers of the world’s most important business enterprises.”

“Membership is personal, not corporate, and by invitation,” the council’s Web site explains.

In any event, Obama spoke to The Business Council in the East Room of The White House on Friday to tell the CEOs that the $789-billion economic stimulus plan was good for the nation. Obama told the council members that he needed their help and that government needed the thoughts of the nation’s business leaders.

It all took about 15 minutes. Obama then mixed with the crowd, shaking hands and thanking the top dogs for coming.

He came to one familiar looking fellow, and the C-Span microphone picked a little of the exchange.

Rockwell Collins’ CEO Clay Jones introduced himself to Obama and noted that he was there from Cedar Rapids.

Obama connected with Cedar Rapids, of course. It was his first presidential campaign stop after announced his campaign for the presidency in Springfield, Ill., in Feb. 10, 2007.

“How’s Cedar Rapids?” Obama asked Rockwell’s Jones, shaking his hand.

“We need a little help there, sir,” Jones told Obama in this eye-to-eye moment.

The exchange continued for a few seconds, out of microphone range. Obama seemed to say that he was aware of Cedar Rapids’ flood recovery, and he could be heard mentioning Gov. Chet Culver’s name.

Jones had a few seconds at Obama. And the Rockwell Collins CEO wasn’t talking the aviation industry, he wasn’t telling Obama how wonderful he was. He doing a one-CEO lobbying campaign for Cedar Rapids — the chief of Cedar Rapids most major employer, eyeball-to-eyeball with Obama.

Who knows.

There have been thousands of pleas in Cedar Rapids about the need to lobby Washington, D.C., for disaster funds. City and community delegations have been to the nation’s capital, and City Hall is paying a D.C. firm $120,000 a year to make its case.

Where Friday’s interchange between Rockwell Collins’ Jones fits in is hard to know.