City Commission wants to raise your taxes as an Emergency!

It’s nice when the Mayor sends you a note to tell you that the Commission Clerk is now doing their job- by posting a 161 page PDF to support the commission meeting this week. You can look for the minutes for Feb 17th- at this link:

Meeting Agendas & Minutes

via Meeting Agendas & Minutes.

The actual document is at: http://www.cityofdayton.org/cco/Commission%20Agendas/2010/02-17-10%20Agenda.pdf

Here’s the bad news: The document is a scan of printouts- which means we have pictures of text- not actual text. This means it does not meet the Americans With Disabilities act requirements for public documents. (I wrote about this in 2008!) People who are vision impaired cannot use a screen reader to have the document read to them. It also- and this is IMPORTANT- means Google can’t read it- nor is it searchable. Someone in City Hall is wasting a lot of time making a document that is only visible to those they want it to be.

And of course, there are some “Emergency ordinances” on the agenda this Wednesday- that should have been able to be on the table for discussion and investigation for more than 3 days-

Let me share: (sorry for any typos- I had to use OCR software)

Sec. 171. Limitation of the Total Property Tax Rate Which May Be Levied Without a Vote of the People for All the Purposes of the Municipality.

The City Commission is hereby granted the authority, without a vote of the people, to levy taxes upon the tax lists or duplicates of property assessed and listed for taxation according to value for all the purposes of the City of Dayton, its boards, departments and institutions, in amounts not in excess of Ten mills on each dollar of assessed valuation on the tax list or duplicate.

Out of said total maximum levy, an amount shall annually be levied sufficient to pay the interest, sinking fund and  retirement charges on all bonds and notes of the City of Dayton heretofore or hereafter authorized to be issued without the authority of the electors, which levy shall be placed before and in preference to all other levies and for the full amount thereof. Of the remaining portion of said total maximum levy, an amount not exceeding five mills may be levied annually for the general fund of said city.

The City Commission, without a vote of the people, may not authorize any property tax levy or levies for permanent improvements other than those which may be made within the 5 mills levy for the general fund, as set forth in the second paragraph of this section, if such levy or levies will increase the total levies for all city purposes, inclusive of all levies to pay the interest, sinking fund and retirement charges on all unvoted bonds and notes of the City of Dayton and those voted bonds heretofore or hereafter issued pursuant to vote of the electors, beyond 10 mills.

Unless authorized and approved by a vote of the electors conformably with the general laws of this state, the City Commission shall levy no property tax outside of the limitations set forth in this section. Provided, however, that the City Commission shall annually levy, to the extent necessary, outside the limitations provided in this Charter and by general law a sufficient sum to pay the interest, sinking fund and retirement charges on all bonds and notes of the City of Dayton heretofore or hereafter lawfully issued, the tax for which by general law or by this Charter has been or shall be authorized to be levied outside of tax limitations.

Section 3. That upon approval by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the amendment to Section 171 shall take effect  on July 1, 2010.

Section 4. That upon approval of the amendment to Section 171 by a majority of the electors voting, existing Section 171 of the Charter is repealed effective June 30, 2010.

Section 5. That the Clerk of the Commission is directed to certify a copy of this Ordinance to the Board of Elections of Montgomery County, Ohio, immediately upon its passage, and to give notice of the proposed amendment to Section 171 of the Charter by newspaper advertising in accordance with the provisions of Section 731.21.1 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Section 6. For the reasons stated in the preamble hereof, this Ordinance is declared to be an emergency measure and shall take effect immediately upon its passage.

Should laws to raise taxes be put into effect without considerable discussion and explaination?

They also want to change the Charter rules on calling meetings- something they seem to think needs to be able to be done at a drop of a hat:

Sec. 39. Meetings of the Connnission.

For the purpose of allowing newly-elected and qualified Connnissioners to assume the duties of their office, the Connnission shall meet on the first Monday in January following a regular municipal election, or the next day if the first Monday in January following a regular municipal election is a legal holiday. The Connnission shall meet at a place and time announced during the last Connnission meeting of the previous year. Thereafter the Commissioners shall meet at such times as may be prescribed by ordinance or resolution, except that they shall not meet less than once each week. Should a scheduled meeting of the Connnission lack a quorum, the meeting may be cancelled by a majority of the Connnission providing written notification to the Clerk of their unavailability. A cancelled meeting shall not constitute an absence from a meeting by a Connnissioner and shall not require authorization from the Connnission.

1.) The Mayor, any two members of the Commission, or the City Manager, may call special meetings of the Commission upon at least 24 hours’ written notice to each member of the Commission, served personally on each member or left at his usual place of residence. All meetings of the Commission shall be open to the public in accordance with the Ohio Sunshine Law presently codified in Ohio R.C. § 121.22. The Commission shall determine its own rules and order of business and shall keep a journal of its proceedings.

Section 3. That upon approval by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the amendment to Section 39 shall take effect on July 1, 2010.

Section 4. That upon approval of the amendment to Section 39 by a majority of the electors voting, existing Section 39 of the Charter is repealed effective June 30, 2010.

Section 5. That the Clerk of the Commission is directed to certify a copy of this Ordinance to the Board of Elections of Montgomery County, Ohio, immediately upon its passage, and to give notice of the proposed amendment to Section 39 of the Charter by newspaper advertising in accordance with the provisions of Section 731.21.1 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Section 6. For the reasons stated in the preamble hereof, this Ordinance is declared to be an emergency measure and shall take effect immediately upon its passage.

And of course, they say they have to use “newspaper advertising”- just to appease the “watchdog” that should stop this kind of “emergency ordinance” malarky. I guess they haven’t figured out that voters don’t read the paper anymore- or maybe that’s why they are using it…

They also have to change the residency requirements in the charter- now that they’ve been ruled unconstitutional. Why we’re not just deleting this part, I’m not sure:

Section 187. Residency for Part-time Employees.
Part-time employees and volunteers shall have the same residency requirements as full time employees.
Section 3. That upon approval by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the amendment to Section 187 shall talce effect on July 1, 2010.
Section 4. That upon approval of the amendment to Section 187 by a majority of the electors voting, existing Section 187 of the Charter is repealed effective June 30,2010.
Section 5. That the Clerle of the Commission is directed to certify a copy of this Ordinance to the Board of Elections of Montgomery County, Ohio, immediately upon its passage, and to give notice of the proposed amendment to Section 187 of the Charter by newspaper advertising in accordance with the provisions of Section 731.21.1 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Section 6. For the reasons stated in the preamble hereof, this Ordinance is declared to be an emergency measure and shall take effect immediately upon its passage.

The residency rule has been unconstitutional for at least a year- why this wasn’t done without an emergency ordinance is inexcusable.

We’re also doing an emergency ordinance to deal with classifications of employees:

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF DAYTON:
Section 1. That an amendment to Section 95 of Dayton’s Charter be submitted to the electors of the City at the May 4, 2010 regular municipal election.
Section 2. That the proposed amendment to Section 95 of the Charter read as follows:
Sec. 95. Classification.
The Civil Service of the city is hereby divided into the unclassified and the classified service.
(A) The unclassified service shall include the following at-will positions:
(1) All officers elected by the people and members of appointed boards.
(2) All officers and employees of the Commission.
(3) The City Manager and deputies, assistants, secretaries, and aides of the City Manager and all other employees in the office of the City Manager.
(4) The heads of departments, one assistant or deputy of a department, heads of divisions of departments and one secretary for each department.
(5) The heads of Commission agencies, including but not limited to the Chief Examiner of the Civil Service Board, one assistant or deputy of a Commission agency, and one secretary for each Commission agency.
(B) The classified service shall comprise all positions not specifically included by this Charter in the unclassified service. There shall be in the classified service three classes to be known as the competitive class, non-competitive
class, and labor class.
(1) The competitive class shall include all positions and employment for which it is practicable to determine the merit and fitness of applicants by competitive examination.
(2) The non-competitive class shall consist of all positions requiring a college degree, a professional license, unique community service or peculiar and exceptional qualifications of a scientific, managerial, professional, or educational  character, as may be determined by the rules of the Board.
(3) The labor class shall include ordinary unskilled labor.
Section 3. That upon approval by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the amendment to Section 95 shall take effect on July 1. 2010.
Section 4. That upon approval of the amendment to Section 95 by a majority of the electors voting, existing Section 95 of the Charter is repealed effective June 30.2010.
Section 5. That the Clerk of the Commission is directed to certify a copy of this Ordinance to the Board of Elections of Montgomery County. Ohio, immediately upon its passage, and to give notice of the proposed amendment to Section 95 of the Charter by newspaper advertising in accordance with the provisions of Section 731.21.1 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Section 6. For the reasons stated in the preamble hereof. this Ordinance is declared to be an emergency measure and shall take effect immediately upon its passage.

Somehow, it’s also an emergency to redefine the boundaries of a neighborhood that’s over 100 years old. No real justification for this either:

Establishing and Describing the Boundaries of the Twin Towers Community Reinvestment Area in the City of Dayton, and Declaring an Emergency.

I’m sorry- but these are not emergencies, by any stretch of the imagination. These issues all show a total disregard for the principles of open, honest government. The rule of P’s comes to play- prior planning prevents poor performance- and any city staff members who were involved in bringing these forward as emergencies should be written up for failure to do their duty to the citizens of Dayton by being better prepared- and set for a longer discussion horizon.

Because of this- I recommend that the citizens show their displeasure by voting down each and everyone of the ballot issues to send a message that all issues as important as those that must be voted on- must also have a proper time frame for discussion. The staff’s lack of planning does not an emergency make.

I’ve uploaded a copy of the OCR’d document- so those with disabilities can read it. Unfortunately- the links put in by staff no longer work properly (learn to use the technology please). 02-17-10AgendaOCR

There is a lot to analyze out of these ordinances- and, frankly, I’m not paid enough to figure it all out. I suggest you ask your elected leaders to explain each of these in English- and why they are passing them as emergencies.

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19 Responses

  1. Will Brooks February 15, 2010 / 10:16 pm
    My God, what a blatant way to circumvent the policies that should govern them. This is what happens with an apathetic populace. I’m just disgusted.

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  2. truddick February 15, 2010 / 10:30 pm
    Perhaps the pros and cons of each issue should be debated instead of assembling a laundry list and declaring it all in need of stain removal?

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  3. David Esrati February 15, 2010 / 10:33 pm

    @truddick you’ll have exactly 3 minutes to make your case on Wednesday night to debate the pros and cons of each issue- as opposed to the standard way which would have given at least 2 readings in successive weeks.

     

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  4. jstults February 15, 2010 / 10:46 pm
    Another bad thing about just images rather than text + images is that the file is much larger than it needs to be; pdfs can be very small and nice looking if used properly.  This isn’t just nerdy complaining either (stop laughing at me), that’s a significant unnecessary load on the city’s servers.  Also, someone had to type that thing up in the first place, then print it, then scan it, then upload it, wtf kind of work-flow is that?  Government efficiency at its finest.  Generate the pdf directly from your word processing program.  If you can’t do that then either you or the program is broken, get a new one (person or program).  Then we’d get a small, search-able, hyper-linked file, less work for whoever had to type/print/scan/upload, and useful meta-data instead of:

    Title: None
    Subject: None
    Author: None
    Keywords: None
    Producer: Xerox 4112
    Creator: Xerox 4112
    Created: Fri 12 Feb 2010 04:56:53 PM EST
    Modified: Mon 15 Feb 2010 03:12:19 PM EST
    Format: PDF-1.6
    Number of Pages: 161
    Optimized: No
    Security: No

    If this was a last-minute ‘heroic effort’ to get anything up at all, then I applaud the hero, hopefully a more sane process will make heroism like that unnecessary in the future.

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  5. jstults February 15, 2010 / 11:24 pm
    Here’s a google map of the red light cameras to which they want to add speed enforcement, from the OCR’d version:

    Attached is an Ordinance which would add speed enforcement to the automated traffic control
    photographic system which currently monitors for red-light violations only. It is believed to be in
    the City of Dayton and the citizens’ best interests and should significantly reduce the number of
    speeding violations and thereby reduce accidents.
    The Department has also advised additional traffic accident and speed studies be conducted which
    could augment and update the existing data from Ohio State Patrol and the Ohio Department of
    Public Safety. The Department of Police with some guidance from Civil Engineering will be doing
    such studies in the coming weeks.
    The attached map and list provide the current locations of the automated traffic control sites, which
    are probable future speed enforcement locations. Once studies have been completed the final
    determination of sites will be made public, as well as the thirty-day warning period.
    The Law Department has written and approved the new ordinance as to form and correctness

    This could be a good revenue generator (as long as they are more efficient at sending out automated tickets than they are at uploading the meeting agenda; sorry, couldn’t resist).

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  6. Shortwest Rick February 15, 2010 / 11:30 pm
    I suspect the verbage regarding competetive and noncompetetive classes of employment is intended to allow the City to hire police officers relevent to DOJ requirements. It seems to be almost a copy and paste from another city’s charter and boiled down to fit the circumstances…

    http://dallascityhall.com/civil_service/civil_service_rules3.html

    Hahaha!!!  the Tecksas influence abounds…

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  7. David Esrati February 16, 2010 / 12:11 am

    You know what’s even more interesting- if they posted this stuff legally- with time for review- and, with commenting ability- like I do here, they might get some amazing insight from the citizens they are supposed to be representing.

    Thanks for catching what I didn’t have time to.

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  8. Civil Servants Are People, Too February 16, 2010 / 12:26 am
    Again, the term “emergency” is a misnomer.   It is generally not a true emergency, but an expedient way to get things done in an environment of  shrinking resources that still  requires mounds of paperwork.    It is used by the State and in cities all over Ohio.    They should really just change the name and call them “immediately effective” ordinances.
     
    Here’s Dayton’s code:

    Sec. 42.  Emergency Measures.
    All ordinances and resolutions shall be in effect from and after 30 days from the date of their passage by the Commission, except as otherwise provided in this Charter. The Commission may, by an affirmative vote of not less than four members, pass emergency measures to take effect at the time indicated therein. An emergency measure is an ordinance or resolution for the immediate preservation of the public peace, property, health or safety, or providing for the usual daily operation of a municipal department, in which the emergency is set forth and defined in a preamble thereto.   LINK

     

    For another example, here is the City of Oxford’s municipal code, which basically says the same thing.    LINK Search for Beavercreek, Cincinnati or wherever, and you will find it everywhere.
     
    @Twin Towers –  A CRA is a property tax exemption used to encourage development in a specified neighborhood.      LINK
     
    @JS…    Those 166 pages were probably compiled from multiple departments over a period of several days or weeks leading up to the meeting.   It’s NEVER as easy as click-and-print to do a project like that!
     

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  9. Shortwest Rick February 16, 2010 / 12:46 am
    What’s scary David is the City Commission has had 355 days to act on the DOJ thing and sat on their hands until it became an emergency to get it on the May 4 ballot. Setting aside the influence of our current and previous mayors who only have/had one vote each, what’s up with the other four Commisioners?

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  10. David Esrati February 16, 2010 / 6:51 am

    @CSAPT you can’t defend ballot issues as emergencies- unless there is a crisis that just came up. These issues aren’t new, they aren’t a surprise- they should have lots of discussion and a presentation about each should be available somewhere to explain them to the public- maybe using Slideshare and Powerpoint.

    The only reason they are being passed as an emergency is because either you don’t want the public to have input- or time to dig into the issue, or because staff wasn’t doing their job and put things off till the last minute.

    Every time you make excuses for the “misnomer” you just come off as a company man who refuses to question our emperor who has no clothes.

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  11. Gary Leitzell February 16, 2010 / 10:00 am
    OK. Let me chime in here. These charter amendments have to be filed with the board of elections something like 75 days before an election in order for them to be on the ballot. If these are not passed as emergencies they will miss the deadline. Hence, in this case, time is of the essence. That being said, in order for these to follow normal procedure, they would have to have been presented to the commission in early January. David is correct when he emphasizes that proper planning would prevent much of the perception of back room deals going on.
    This truly is a first step and quite a big one considering. The fact that this information is being made available before it goes in front of the commission allows for public scrutiny and will probably reduce the amount of emergency ordinances and resolutions being presented in the future. There are more changes to the charter on the horizon. Maybe we can get those to be processed through normal procedure so that they appear on the November ballot without having to be presented as emergencies.
    @ David,
    We are not passing an ordinance to raise taxes that doesn’t already exist. We are updating the charter to be in line with the 21st century. The text below was copied and pasted from the city charter which is available from the city website (but you have to find it). It reflects the text that is being replaced by the proposed legislation. The old text is from 1945.
    If you take the time to read the charter sections that the new text replaces, you would see that the new wording makes complete sense. Keep doing what you do. You may want to be a little more diligent with your research though before you go into attack mode because I am going to hold your feet to the fire just as you are trying to do to me!
    SUPPLEMENTS
    Limitation of the Total Tax Rate Which May Be Levied Without a
    Vote of the People for All the Purposes of the Municipality § 171.
    The City Commission is hereby granted the authority, without a
    vote of the people, to levy taxes upon the tax lists or duplicates
    of property assessed and listed for taxation according to value
    for all the purposes of the City of Dayton, its boards,
    departments and institutions, in amounts not in excess of the
    following total maximum levies for the years specified, to wit:
    Eight and one-half mills on each dollar of assessed valuation
    on the tax list or duplicate for the years l945 to l950, both
    inclusive (for the purposes of the fiscal years l946 to l951, both
    inclusive);
    Nine mills on each dollar of assessed valuation on the tax
    list or duplicate for the years l951 and l952 (for the purposes of
    the fiscal years l952 and l953);
    Ten mills on each dollar of assessed valuation on the tax
    list or duplicate for the year l953 and all years thereafter (for
    the purposes of the fiscal year l954 and all years thereafter).
    Out of said total maximum levy for each of said years, an
    amount shall annually be levied sufficient to pay the interest,
    sinking fund and retirement charges on all bonds and notes of the
    City of Dayton heretofore or hereafter authorized to be issued
    48
    without the authority of the electors, which levy shall be placed
    before and in preference to all other levies and for the full
    amount thereof. Of the remaining portion of said total maximum
    levy, commencing with the levy against the tax list or duplicate
    for the year l945 and continuing thereafter, an amount not
    exceeding 5 mills may be levied annually for the general fund of
    said city.
    The City Commission, without a vote of the people, may not
    authorize any tax levy or levies for permanent improvements other
    than those which may be made within the 5 mills levy for the
    general fund, as set forth in the fifth paragraph of this section,
    if such levy or levies will increase the total levies for all city
    purposes, inclusive of all levies to pay the interest, sinking
    fund and retirement charges on all unvoted bonds and notes of the
    City of Dayton and those voted bonds heretofore or hereafter
    issued pursuant to vote of the electors at any election held prior
    to November 16, l945, beyond 8-l/2 mills for the tax years l945 to
    l950, 9 mills for the tax years l951-l952, and 10 mills for the
    tax year l953 and all years thereafter.
    Unless authorized and approved by a vote of the electors
    conformably with the general laws of this state, the City
    Commission shall levy no tax outside of the limitations set forth
    in this section. Provided, however, that the City Commission
    shall annually levy, to the extent necessary, outside the
    limitations provided in this Charter and by general law a
    sufficient sum to pay the interest, sinking fund and retirement
    charges on all bonds and notes of the City of Dayton heretofore or
    hereafter lawfully issued, the tax for which by general law or by
    this Charter has been or shall be authorized to be levied outside
    of tax limitations.
    This section shall take effect and be in force as of the date
    of the certification to the Secretary of State by the Board of
    Elections, for the purpose of fixing the tax rate upon the tax
    list or duplicate for the year l945 and all years thereafter.
    (Adopted by voters, ll-6-45)

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  12. jstults February 16, 2010 / 10:40 am
    CSAPT:

    Those 166 pages were probably compiled from multiple departments over a period of several days or weeks leading up to the meeting.   It’s NEVER as easy as click-and-print to do a project like that!

    Sure, I understand there’s going to be some work-flow inefficiency if you are scanning documents from outside organizations (though if they are scanned and OCR’d and concactenated into a single document in a good piece of software, then it does become click and print, and the work-load is lowered on the person doing the project).  If they are from other departments in the same city government, then there’s no need for them to go to print and then back to electronic through the ‘analog  hole’, that’s just waste (even signatures can be done electronically these days).

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  13. Drexel Dave Sparks February 16, 2010 / 11:56 am
    So, is the city commission voting to raise taxes, or isn’t it?
    Some simplification would go a lomg way.

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  14. Will Brooks February 16, 2010 / 12:05 pm
    @ Mayor Leitzell – Thanks for the explanation. Transparency, in this case, has significantly decreased my disgust level and built a layer of empathy into my psyche towards the City Commission. Thanks again.

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  15. David Esrati February 16, 2010 / 6:15 pm

    @Gary- thanks for acknowledging that charter amendments should have been presented earlier- that these weren’t something that just came up yesterday.

    I use the headline to get attention- because I don’t have the platform that you have- with TV coverage and newspaper stories. You have the pulpit- I’m down in the trenches, and I say it’s time to show more professional management- planning for these things, avoiding the emergency when there clearly was none.

    As to researching the legalese- I’m not a lawyer- and this isn’t written in plain English. In fact- I’d have rejected this language as obtuse- and worked to use English people can understand.

    Face it- this isn’t how people speak:

    Out of said total maximum levy, an amount shall annually be levied sufficient to pay the interest, sinking fund and  retirement charges on all bonds and notes of the City of Dayton heretofore or hereafter authorized to be issued without the authority of the electors, which levy shall be placed before and in preference to all other levies and for the full amount thereof. Of the remaining portion of said total maximum levy, an amount not exceeding five mills may be levied annually for the general fund of said city.

    We have to be able to do better than this.

    Also- the points about how it is presented- including ADA compliance aren’t to be ignored. Just getting the stuff posted is one thing- making it meet legal requirements (of which the posting is one) is the rest of the requirement.

    I hope we see a change- both because it’s the right thing to do- and it’s also easier.

    Get some IT people working in City Hall who understand how to use Wiki’s- and file sharing- and Darwin Information Typing Architecture – to cut the amount of paperwork involved in changing and updating all these regs.

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  16. Hall February 17, 2010 / 10:31 am
    Those 166 pages were probably compiled from multiple departments over a period of several days or weeks leading up to the meeting.   It’s NEVER as easy as click-and-print to do a project like that!

    I didn’t look through the entire 160+ page document to see if any of it’s handwritten, typed (typewriter), or what, but copy-and-pasting is easy to make all of the different ones into one ‘master’ document. There’s no excuse…

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  17. Will Brooks February 17, 2010 / 11:10 am
    @ David E. – You have some good points and no doubt some of these should be implemented. But none of the changes that Gary campaigned on are going to happen quickly. Hell, having changes in the city charter coming up for a vote, minutes and agendas available, and the Mayor coming over here to respond is significant enough. Why the need to be so aggressive and outspoken? Is it ever good enough? You really believe you would be able to step in there and make it all right?
     
    I’m not attacking you just throwing the other side of the picture into view.

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  18. jstults February 17, 2010 / 12:00 pm
    Will Brooks:

    Is it ever good enough?

    No.  Continuous improvement doesn’t happen by itself.  Meat-sacks like us need ‘motivation’ and critical feed-back.  Nothing personal, it’s just [Politics / Business / etc.].
     
    Having said that, part of motivation consists of praising improvement (so thanks WB for doing that).

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  19. Will Brooks February 17, 2010 / 12:14 pm
    @Jstults – I could stand to clarify part of my rhetorical question you quoted. In this case, it refers to the efforts people are making to change things for the better. Continuous improvement is always desirable but I wasn’t inferring that in this case. I should have been more clear. Also, from Mayor Leitzell’s post, I get the picture that City Hall isn’t a bunch of corrupt idiots but may be comprised of people who care but have lacked effective leadership at times. I would say that Mayor Leitzell is off to a good start if he can keep things moving in the direction we appear to be headed.
     
    Having been successful in leadership/management for over 10 years my perception is that unless we at Esrati.com can get to the place that we lavish praise where it is due then this forum will be discounted as a haven for armchair critics who wish to say what should, would, and could, be done. Personally, I think better of David Esrati and his works here.
     
    And your welcome, I think we are saying the same things.

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