Friday, November 15, 2019

Scranton City Governance - 10 Suggestions for the Mayor-Elect

The 2019 election brought forth a clear message from the electorate; We are sick and tired of business as usual! Scranton’s election of Paige Cognetti to the office of Mayor is an historic opportunity for positive cultural change.

Having been involved in government finance for over 35 years, I have some suggestions for the incoming Mayor:
  1. First off, do a complete utilization review of all senior staff and department heads. Changes to job descriptions will likely be necessary. Keep staff who have both experience and the ability to adapt to change. Those who have difficulty with change or who have a negative mindset cannot remain in their position.
  2. Government and business are 2 different areas. However, there are aspects of business that can be utilized in government operations. This begins with a mindset of Continuous Process Improvement. Every operational aspect of government can benefit from a clear focus on process. The recent revelations about fuel purchases by the city highlight the need for a process-oriented focus. Continuous Process Improvement recognizes that externals change frequently. As a result, internal processes must change. “We’ve always done it that way” doesn’t fit into this mindset.
  3. The city has several levels of operations to ensure that expenditures are made according to General Code requirements. It is vital to utilize the Controller’s office as intended. This hasn’t been the case over the past several years. 
  4. The city is required to be audited annually by a CPA accounting firm. Remember that financial statement preparation is only part of their engagement. Utilize the CPA firm as an overseer of financial processes and internal controls as well. It is possible to partner with the audit firm while maintaining their independence. I always viewed audits as providing opportunities for improvement. 
  5. Maintain an open relationship with City Council. Executive and legislative branches must work together.
  6. Try to maintain a good relationship with municipal unions. With human resource issues, understand that the overall system under which they operate is generally pro-union. This does not mean acquiescing; it means taking a realistic view and acting accordingly.
  7. The lack of ethical behavior by elected/appointed officials and employees was a central factor in the results of the election. Place emphasis on ethics in both policy and example.
  8. Be as transparent as possible! Be sure to share appropriate information on the city’s website and periodically report out to the public. Don’t wait for the local newspaper to uncover problems; try to get ahead of problems instead.
  9. Continue the work of current Mayor Evans in respect to delinquent taxes and garbage fees.
  10. Work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to attract family-sustaining jobs to the city.

 In my opinion, the recent election offers hope for major change in how city government operates.  We now have qualified people in city government who understand public service.

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