Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Little Municipal Government

A member of the Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee asked Wednesday how it came about that health and social services got added to the Department of Administration & Finance.

"I know, I know!" my inner municipal geek screamed.

I refrained from raising my hand and waving it at the meeting, but because I am the boss of this blog, I will tell you here.

Once upon a time, a mayor wanted a certain person to become director of Administration & Finance. But his friend's background was in social services. So the mayor took the Health Division and Welfare out from under the Department of Public Affairs & Safety and put it under Administration & Finance.

The friend turned out not to be a good match for the job and was put in charge of Welfare. When Welfare was shifted to the county, the friend was put in charge of Dudley House.

Meanwhile, the mayor was long gone.

Political survivors are still around. The administration may turn over every four years, but once hired, favored people from past administrations are hard to get rid of. And decisions made as if municipal government was a toy linger on.

It does not make any sense to have the current configuration. Instead of paying close and exclusive attention to the city's finances, the director may be called on to resolve a spat at the Senior Center.

All three city departments mandated in the charter have had similar rolls of the dice. For example, the Recreation Division was moved from Public Affairs & Safety to the Department of Public Works & Urban Development.

In 1990, a Charter Study Commission presented a report on city government, with pros and cons of changing its structure. It might have taken two years to get changes enacted by the state Legislature, but the council took no action to start the process. So the three departments remain, but divisions can be switched around without a charter change. And that's what happened, boys and girls.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was Admin/Finance shifted under Mark Fury? That's how I remember it.

7:36 AM  

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