I have a feeder that forwards news articles related to government to my e-mail every day. It is not uncommon for me to come across a headline that states ”City Council & Mayor Discuss Strategic Priorities” or ”Town Board Meets for Annual Retreat”. I don’t ever recall reading a similar news headline for the County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Town of Amherst etc. The Columbia Missouri City Council (population of 108,500), recently held their Annual Retreat where “…council members and city department leaders discussed the city’s strengths and weaknesses and outlined strategic priorities on which the city should focus for the next three years.” “City Manager Mike Matthes arranged for the retreat to focus on strategic planning. He said the city would use information from citizen and municipal employee surveys to find ways to improve its functions.”
The Columbia City Council’s annual retreat is held over 2 days and is open to the public. This is such a foreign concept in the Buffalo, NY area. Councilmembers/board members rarely meet with the Mayor/Supervisor annually to discuss priorities? In fact even more troubling is that City Mayors and Town Supervisors rarely meet with their department heads on a regular basis to discuss priorities. Rudy Guiliani as Mayor of New York City meet with his department heads every morning to share information and to address government issues in a coordinated way.
When department heads do not meet as a group with the chief elected official of a municipality direction on priorities and goals becomes cloudy. This lack of direction becomes even more problematic when elected legislators themselves are not on the same page with each other or with the Mayor/Supervisor.
In order to accomplish something through the bureaucracy of government, communication is key. The first step to getting everyone focusing on the same priorities is to get everyone in the same room as department heads and as elected officials. Why is this so hard in the Buffalo area?