Friday, June 3, 2011

Editorial: Current hierarchy presents a conflict

Perhaps there really is a conflict, editor, but it seems to me that your primary job entails finding out what the specific conflicts have been and how they have affected our city government and our community.

This editorial and Cindy's news-side story stink of clubby insiderism. Watching Council talk around the issue is not the core of the story, editor. To understand whether Council is addressing the situation usefully, we need to know what the situation really is. This coverage just ropes me off.

And by the way, it only further confuses civics-challenged voters to have you referring to this as a "separation of powers" issue. It's nothing of the sort.

If Council takes the Attorney's office out from under the Manager, it is effectively removing an arm from City administration and attaching it to itself. This is the opposite of what we normally understand as separation of powers, and would be considered a gross usurpation of administrative power by what amounts to our local legislative branch. Imagine the howls if the Congress decided to bring the President's legal team and Justice Department under its exclusive control.

Whether this would be a good idea is another question. If the administrative apparatus has become so corrupt that Council cannot trust the Manager to properly handle internal investigations, I'd expect to see personnel changes from the top down into the middle layers -- it's not the system, it's the people.

Should we infer that Council has known about this kind of problem for a long time and been too weak to deal with it? Or is this why Steve Norwood and his deputy left? I have no idea other than my own experiences with the Norwood regime, and the paper isn't helping me. Or you.


Anonymous said...

You make no sense. The council would only be allowing Kidd to manage his people. Kidd and Norwood's replacement both already answer to the council. the city manager should not be the supervisor of the attorney's employees.

Steven Ayres said...

I think you're mistaking my point, O anonymous commenter. I'm not taking a position on what's the right thing to do. My point is that we don't have anything like enough information to determine even what problem we're trying to solve.

That said, if you're advocating an independent administrative division for the attorney, are you similarly saying that the clerk and the magistrate should be running their own divisions, including budgeting, personnel and policy?

If there is a policy conflict between the attorney and the manager, it doesn't make sense to wall off a division, adding new layers of complication and responsibilities for the attorney, when you could simply have the manager step back from policy decisions set by the attorney while maintaining personnel and budgetary management. If the situation gets ugly, it's grounds for dismissal of someone, not throwing the entire city apparatus into the chaos of too many cooks.

Again, that's all based on knowing basically nothing about what's really going on other than Norwood's style in the trenches.