With elections coming up here in Blanco, I’ve been thinking about what current and past city officials have done and what I would like to see happen in the future. First of all, I’ve wondered about job definitions for our elected officials. What are they? Here’s what I concluded after reviewing other cities and Internet searches.
• The mayor is a town’s town leader/visionary. He/she defines both the city’s short- and long-term goals and maintains an ongoing dialogue with local citizens. This individual presides over the city council and makes appointments while the council makes governmental decisions. The mayor breaks tie votes in these decisions and can veto council decisions (the buck stops here.) This is a proactive position.
• A city manager is a nuts-and-bolts professional. This is someone who–because of his/her decisions–may save/earn the city more money than his/her salary costs per year. The manager is the number cruncher who develops fiscal forecasts for the city. This person knows the current (usually oversubscribed grant programs) ways to meet city goals within affordable means. This individual works on an ongoing basis to supply the mayor and council with the most current information on the city and its projects.
As a business owner, I have to know where I stand fiscally every day. Whether I do the accounting work myself or have someone else prepare it for me, it has to be done. The same goes for the city: the mayor and council must be aware of where they stand today, this month, this year, and also in regard to the city’s 10-year plan. This is only a reactive position
• Council members serve as fiduciaries who guard the interests of citizens, help the mayor and citizens meet their future goals, and maintain the accountability of city government. They chair citizen committees to accomplish tasks to further city goals. These individuals are much like our congressional representatives. They enact local laws and are the eyes and ears of the city. This is a proactive position.
All these individuals are involved in managing and delegating as many tasks as possible in order to make themselves as productive as possible. This is because, while large cities can afford to compensate individuals who do these tasks on a full time basis, in Blanco our elected city officials are not compensated and normally work full time in addition to their civic duties. Having said that, these duties can be quite time consuming, and that is why delegation is vitally important.
Here’s a list of what I think, in order of importance, are the issues our city should be dealing with.
1. Citizens’ safety
a. Police b. Fire c. Medical
2. City welfare–day-to-day
a. Street maintenance
b. Our water and sewer
3. City obligations
4. Communication with citizens
5. City plan–The future
a. Water b. Sewer c. Streets
e. Economic development
6. Help develop new local
7. Attract new businesses
Where are we going? Last weekend, the San Antonio Express-News dedicated most of its front page to San Antonio’s goals as a city to accomplish between now and 2020. Winston Churchill once said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” While I have lived here, Blanco leaders, in my opinion, have not communicated our town’s present or future goals to it’s citizens. Are we planning anything? Our state (with our tax money) gave us a grant to have a city plan. Most of our city officials have not read it. Many times I have heard the city talk of “managing growth.” How are they doing this? Most businesses– especially a business that wants to borrow money–need a written business plan. Where is our plan for our goals for 2020?
Do we want all the chain/franchise businesses to move in and offer jobs at minimum wage? Is the city involved in courting businesses that might offer the more substantial possibility of higher pay? We have a number of companies that provide medical care for people with health issues; might this be something to expand on?
Ever since I moved to Blanco, I’ve heard that both the water and sewer treatment plants need to be upgraded or new ones built. But that’s all I’ve heard. Have any of our elected officials or their appointed officials looked into the actual cost of these facilities? Has any of our city’s savings been earmarked to pay for these? Do we want to wait “like deer in the headlights” until the last minute and figure out how to pay for these facilities? Recently, the city installed new pavement and curbs from the river to the 300 block of Pecan Street. Why was this project selected over other needs? Do we have any cost projections or appropriated money for the next project?
The new pipeline to Real Ale brought a housing subdivision and a hotel. My guess is that property values went up as well as the tax revenues. With published plans, it’d be much easier for local and outside businesses to make their own plans for expansion and new development. My goal is not to grouse about our problems. Instead, I’d love to be part of the solution. In the upcoming election, let us ask these people for written solutions to these problems. I will give you an idea of what I would do in my next article.