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Monday, July 19, 2010

Government by ambush

I'm starting to wonder what's up with Super Carole. First she bombs out with her high school closure fantasies. Now she's playing hide the ball with the local media. The prognosis here is not too good.

Comments (14)

I've had limited managerial experience myself - I think we can all be glad about that - but then again, I have supervised crews of dozens of waiters and housemen in my Banquet Captain days.

In fact, I'll take that back: I have tons of management experience. It's a lot harder managing night crews at 4 a.m. who don't have as much to lose as well-paid executives. I'm not sure Jack Welch could cut it in that world back then. I doubt if the board of GE ever physically attacked him.

Here's what Carole did wrong: She had a very difficult bunch of choices to make with her first plan. In that case, you must make the decisions as best you can and present it as an unmovable finished product. Be fair and don't pick on one segment of society - don't take the easy way out. The plan has to have a basic integrity to it but it has to be presented as a done deal - not a popularity contest. This is specifically for plans that are going to be really bad for somebody. You've got to pick who and stand your ground.

As soon as she wavered in her commitment to the first plan, I knew everything after that would be one long shouting match. She opened what to do up to negotiations and she's been retreating ever since. I went through that. You think they'll like you more but it just turns into a long dislike. Better to get it over with. She blinked and she's been blinking ever since.

If something gets better later - after the crew has accepted your plan - you can always take away some of the unpopular elements when the real work is done. She didn't do that and based on my limited knowledge of the circumstances, it felt like bad management to me.

Well, with all due respect, Bill, I don't think running a school district is the same as managing a restaurant. But I do agree with your essential prognosis: Carol should have made a decision and stuck to her guns, although some of the blame attaches to her bosses -- the School Board -- as well. Their own indecision and backtracking certainly didn't help.

Sorry, I regret saying I thought running a hotel banquet crew was the same as running a school district.
That explains why there were no little desks and stuff.

Bill, I think you're exactly right. A leader has to be more decisive. There has been a lot of hemming and hawing and backtracking.

Making a decision and standing by it shows for all to see if the leader is actually qualified or not. So naturally, many managers seek to avoid this moment of truth however they can for as long as they can.

Adams is a classic at this. It's one of the main functions of all the "planning" around here. Go through endless process to obfuscate how a decision is actually being made. When all is said and done, insist that the outcome somehow came out of the "public process" when it didn't at all.

It's much harder to do with school issues because so many people are actually engaged and passionate about it. Whereas with a planning project you can have 12 fringe people show up to an open house and claim that you've consulted the public.

I'm going to guess of the 25 positions under threat most will be unfilled positions that are cut with the remainder coming from retiring people who will not now be replaced. At least that's how gov't normally goes about layoffs.

Which has always led me to ask, if you have'nt filled the position within a very short period of time why was the position invented to begin with?

Sure a leader needs to be decisive, but if the plan is no good or you don't believe in it, it fails, as in Super Carole. On the other hand we have people like Leonard, who present plans that make no common sense other than to fill his narcissism. He pushes them through just because he can with no real pubic process, and we end up paying handsomely for his never ending mistakes.

Ahem....I meant "public process"....

I'm not sure I would put as much blame on Carol. Yes, she changed a couple of major things between the draft and the final plan, but it seemed to be based on actual input. The real indecision is at the Board level -- they can't form a consensus and essentially punted until next year. Carol is the top manager in an elected form of government, and I think the ultimate blame for the inaction has to fall on her bosses.

As for the positions noted above, it's bizarre that the actual cuts won't be made public until after they are adopted. Usually this kind if information is shared with the impacted employees sometime between proposal and adoption -- not after!

I look at Carole as the CEO, and ultimately the buck stops with her. A dysfunctioal board of directors doesn't help, but she should have had a bigger discussion before the board made decisions.

As for learning the deatails after the fact, it reminds me of the health care bill passed this spring where legislators said they would find out what they voted for after it passed. Does not make sense.

If I were the facebook updater, or the project manager, or any of the other people whose jobs may or may not be on the chopping block, I'd like to know sooner rather than later so I can be updating my resume and preparing for a possible lay-off. Especially if I'm hoping to find a job in another school district--the summer hiring season (which is probably non-existant this year anyhow) will be ending soon.

For public entities, such as the City of Portland or Multnomah County, I believe after the budget is adopted, the details do become public - has the School Board not yet adopted their FY2011 budget?

She may be the CEO, but the "elected" Board has the last say.

According to City Hall that is the legitimate public decision making body that relieves Council members from any responsibility for those outcomes, and why they won't involve themselves in something as unpopular as this. This engaged public tends to vote.

What board members are determining through redrawing boundaries, cutting staff, and subsequently closing schools as a result of these decisions amounts to land use planning by another means, without public involvement. No applications, no land use reviews, no third party appeals, no notification or public participation necessary.

Are these citizens "volunteers" capable land use planners?
Do we want them determining the livability of our neighborhoods by their actions?

If those who are involved behind the scenes can get the results they wish for without getting their hands dirty, so much the better for them.

This is why people should take more care in who they elect for these positions. They control an enormous asset base (legitimately or not) in land and facilities owned by the public and can with little or no oversight or scrutiny, dispose of these or privatize our properties without subjecting their decisions to the informed reviews and analysis required by City ordinance.

PPS has closed 32 schools over these past couple decades, while adding portable trailers without end to accommodate those children in neighborhoods with closed facilities. To do so many kids are bussed long distance from their neighborhoods to accommodate these closures. How does this make sense?

How are these dispositions helping to offset the continual budget "shortfalls"?

Where are those net proceeds and how have we the public benefited in any way from these reactive and shortsighted decisions?

Where is the anticipated income stream from these closure and then disposition by sale or long term leases?

In addition to this continuing insult, we have to and will continue to pay again for what we already owned when replacing recreational fields lost using general fund revenue, so a direct tax on all citizens. Think about it.

Mark.. you are right. We get what we elect and we have elected poorly. At all levels of regional government.

Thank you Mark for your comments.
Much is wrong here when school board members can make these land decisions without the proper public involvement when the land belongs to the public.

Are some of these meetings held in executive session?

Sounds like this certainly works well for some at great detriment to the citizens.
Citizens want and need the anchor of their neighborhood, their schools "in their neighborhood" and I would think it would be very disruptive to have them closed.

It just looks like some are playing real estate with our school properties. We are told these "millions" more are coming into our area. Suppose we will be asked to buy land again and again at a much higher rate. The best use and investment of these lands is for the public and for the land to stay in public hands.

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