"City Council Tactics". That's the title of the presentation made by City staff to the Richardson City Council. But they aren't tactics for the City Council. They are tactics for City staff, who developed them themselves. There are a lot of them, 73 by my count. Much of the list reads like things that were probably on the City staff's to-do list for months or years, just like the goals and strategies they are based on are mostly recycled from previous years. I suspect City staff was careful to avoid making them too ambitious, risky, or binding (or, for that matter, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based — you know S.M.A.R.T.). It's entirely understandable for employees to not want to promise their bosses too much. So words like "Explore," "Review," "Evaluate" are commonly used. One tactic starts with "Develop a strategy to...", not "Just Do It." I thought the Council had delegated the tactics to staff, not the job of developing more strategies.
Let's look at what's still missing, and then assess the City Council's own participation in the process of developing and shaping these tactics, maybe awarding some medals in the process.
Missing are tactics in support of goals I suggested:
- Update the 2009 Comprehensive Plan
- Update City zoning ordinances
- Reform City's use of tax incentives
- Reform policing (eliminate ticket quotas, eliminate pretext stops)
- Strengthen the Code of Ethics
- Commit to video record *all* City Council meetings
Instead, we get the non-committal "Develop strategy and timeline to update the Comprehensive Plan." Again, enough with developing more strategies. These are supposed to be tactics to execute in support of strategies already defined. Just update the Comprehensive Plan already.
The word "zoning" doesn't appear in the 73 tactics at all. There is this: "Explore establishing an accessory dwelling unit ordinance." Great, but ADUs are just one small piece of the outdated, restrictive zoning ordinances Richardson needs to overhaul wholesale.
Use of tax incentives is not mentioned.
Policing is not mentioned. There is this: "Prepare for Texas Police Chiefs Association Re-recognition" which sounds more like applying for an industry award than making community-focused reform.
The Code of Ethics is not mentioned. At this rate, former Mayor Maczka will be sentenced and serve her time and be on the streets again before the City of Richardson gets around to locking the barn door.
Video recording of *all* City Council meetings is not mentioned. This one is such unpicked low-hanging fruit that I have to conclude that the Mayor is mocking me when he says he can see in these tactics the "fingerprints...of some individual citizens."
To be fair, I wouldn't expect City Staff to miraculously develop "tactics" in support of all of my suggested goals because the City Council itself failed to adopt "goals" or "strategies" along these lines. The blame here is on City Council, not City staff.
Speaking of the City Council, Monday night's presentation of tactics by Deputy City Manager Don Magner (watch for a title change soon), took 38 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of comments by Council members. That ratio is consistent with my impression that this is not a list of "City Council Tactics" but City staff's own to-do list, otherwise I'd expect the City Council to be a lot more hands-on in this process. It's in their own self interest. Good planning is a collaborative process. General George S. Patton is quoted as saying, "Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy."
Brief as the City Council members' own inputs to this process were, I'd like to list the highlights, in order of the shininess of the participation medal I think each earned in this worksession.
- Joe Corcoran: "The only thing that I didn't see that I would like to recommend adding or looking at is always finding a way for our police department to engage in new ways with the public."
- Arefin Shamsul: "Our downtown area, the events that are going to happen, I think that will naturally bring the community together. That will engage our police department, the fire departments, engaging with the citizens. That's was definitely one of the things that many people want to see."
- Jennifer Justice: "I think that the tactics are really good from an engagement standpoint. I don't know how you create a tactic for input. You get input when you need it. And so when it comes up, I just want to make sure that we focus on that piece because I don't think it's reflected in the tactics. But again, I don't know how you write a tactic to reflect that."
- Janet DePuy: "The other thing I'm really excited about and would like to know briefly how it would work was the enhanced opportunity to work with retail centers."
- Ken Hutchenrider: "It's nothing that we're doing wrong. It's just can we do more? Right? I guess is a better way to say it. And maybe it's the Things-to-Do newsletter."
- Bob Dubey: "One thing that's so impressive is you captured hours and hours of dialogue."
- Paul Voelker: "The fingerprints of this council, I can sense are in these tactics but beyond that boards and commissions, various organizations and quite candidly, some individual citizens that I see."
Yeah, the council members' participation medals are going to be small this year.