As America continues its Great Civics Lesson, it is worth hearkening back to our country’s origins through heightened discourse. In Federalist Number 62, James Madison warned that it “will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood….” It remains incumbent upon all levels of government to wipe away bureaucracy where it invades upon liberty and efficiency.
At our most recent City Council meeting, my colleagues and I voted unanimously to cut decades of bureaucracy, empower our staff and volunteer boards, and free hundreds of thousands of dollars for core infrastructure spending.
We did so by revising our City Council policies. Until recently, we had one hundred twenty-eight policies that direct staff, our volunteer boards, and even City Council how to conduct themselves in a variety of situations. We have policies directing how the Mayor is elected, processing tree donations and removals, maintaining an appropriate level of reserves, permitting events at our beaches and parks, etc.
Unfortunately, many of these policies had grown dusty and ignored. One of those policies actually required an annual review…that was rarely conducted. Another policy explains that City Council members use switches to turn on green and red lights to vote yes or no – a technology that has not existed for quite some time. Another policy actually gave a verbatim script to city employees for their voice mails…that no one used.
The City Council appointed a subcommittee of Mayor (Kevin) Muldoon, Council Member (Brad) Avery, and me to combine policies when practical to provide more efficiency, update or eliminate outdated or unused policies, eliminate policies that merely restate existing local, state, or federal law, update for changes in processes, names and/or procedures.
Department directors helped immensely along the way by suggesting changes to policies that directly affected their spheres. A special thanks to Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs and Assistant City Attorney Michael Torres for their hard work.
Ultimately, the City Council voted unanimously to reduce the number of policies by 32, eliminate 72 pages, and eliminate over 12,000 words from the City Council Policy Manual. Reading what we eliminated is nearly the equivalent (in length, not quality) of Macbeth.
City Council also directed our Harbor Commission, Planning Commission, and Finance Committee to review an additional fifty-one Council Policies with the same goals.
We welcome additional public input and appreciate working hard for our residents.