Words of Advice to New EP Leaders
Advice to Leaders
I am writing this the weekend prior to the election, I don’t know who will be our next Mayor or Councilors but I want to give those people, whomever they turn out to be, some words of advice.
To The Mayor
1. Be visionary! Be a leader, not a manager. The city overwhelmingly decided that they wanted an elected Mayor, not because they thought they could hire a better manager, but because they wanted a leader. The city needs a vision and it needs leadership, the Mayor may be the chief executive officer, but more important than being ‘head of government’ is being ‘head of state’ setting a vision, getting buy-in from residents and selling the city around the state, nation and world.
2. Resist the urge toward a big Mayor’s Office. I know many people who lament the idea of any extra staff, however, a ‘Mayor’s Office’ is a cost of this form of government. That said, we’re not Warwick or Cranston, a Mayor’s Office should be small and nimble, I’d forgo the Chief-of-Staff in favor of a Chief Operating Officer, who can be the nuts-and-bolts administrator so the Mayor can be strategic. I suggest, besides a secretary, a Constituent Affairs Coordinator and a Communications Specialist, that’s about it. There can be a tendency to draw functions into the Mayor’s Office. Even when this is cost neutral, this has a bad effect on culture and can cause the mayor to become insulated. The new Mayor will inherit old department heads and so drawing functions into ‘his office’ with ‘his people’ is a strong temptation but one I suggest fighting.
3. Change the culture! I can identify three areas immediately; customer service, business friendliness and hiring. These need to be reshaped as job one.
To The City Council
1. Don’t be a rubber stamp! Our charter was amended to create a strong balance between Mayor and Council, but this only works when the Council is willing to exercise its role in legislating and oversight. Even if you are of the same political leanings as the Mayor, it is still important that every proposal is vetted, reviewed and critiqued. It not only checks the potential excesses of a Mayor, it also improves the final product with different points of view.
2. Be legislators! Without the role of running the city as in years past, the Council can do some real legislating and it’s needed. Many of our ordinances are woefully outdated and the whole Revised Ordinances need refreshing and perhaps re-codifying.
3. Revisit the Charter. The Charter Review Commission ran out of time and couldn’t tackle every issue. With four year terms I would examine either staggering the Council against the Mayor or doing a split staggering of Mayor and 2 ward seats one cycle and at-large and 2 ward seats the next. While I support 4 year terms, I think there has to be some voter voice every two years. I would also examine a charter based Ethics & Conduct Commission to independently investigate issues such as former Mayor Rose’s Tahoe rental or Councilman Faria’s alleged interference in city business. I would have an unfavorable determination made by this body able to trigger the recall process that was recently added to the charter.
To both Mayor and Council, I implore appointments based on merit and appointees that disagree with you. A new era in East Providence starts with you!
Jason J. Desrosiers