A proposal to create a chief operating officer for City Hall drew tough arguments pro and con Monday.
The president of the Greater Bristol Labor Council, Mike Petosa, said the charter revision suggestion to create the job is being driven by a small group of business people “who are willing to play economic chicken with the taxpayers’ money.”
Petosa called the idea of creating a costly new job “fiscally irresponsible” at a time when Bristol’s political leadership is searching for ways to carve spending from its budget.
But Craig Yarde, a businessman who is pushing for more professional management at City Hall, said the city has a problem with its management structure that a chief operating officer would help solve.
“We have a management team that turns over every two years,” Yarde said, including the mayor, who is de facto CEO.
“On top of that, we have two opposing political teams on the management team working at times against each other. You can see why it's difficult to get a everyone rowing the boat in the same direction,” he said.
“What we are talking about here is giving an assistant to the mayor and council to help with all the moving parts,” Yarde said.
But Petosa said that the city is better off with a strong mayor who answers to the people directly. Mayors “know Bristol” and have a strong commitment to its future, Petosa said.
“Our form of government is a democratic process,” he said, that gives the people the right to pick their own chief operating officer every two years.
“We don’t need another level of government coming in an creating havoc,” Petosa said. “It would be very, very detrimental to our city.”
Yarde said that he believes hiring “a gray-haired seasoned executive with knowledge of municipal affairs to assist the members on the management team” would be well worth the expensive.
“We need to have a management team that can be more effective in meeting short and long term goals,” Yarde said.
Yarde said that city councilors should let the public decide whether to make the change in city government by putting the Charter Revision Commission’s proposal on the ballot this November.
But it appears that the council will vote 4-3 next week to kill the suggestion unless one of its members has a change of heart. It’s possible there will be an effort to revive the suggestion through a referendum process if the council votes as expected.
Here's Yarde's full speech for Monday's 6 p.m. hearing at City Hall on the suggested change in the charter
My first question is how many emails did you receive for and how many against the new COO proposal by the Charter Revision Committee. I received this email from a union member. Here is what the AFSCME is emailing their members:
PEOPLE POWER IN BRISTOL
The Bristol City Council is considering an ill-advised plan to create a new Chief Operating position. The COO would be like a city manager- an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat running the city. Bristol has done well for all these years. Please contact the members of the city council and tell them we don't need this unnecessary expense. The powers should remain with the mayor and other elected city officials.
I don't know how many of the 1.4 million members received this email but I would dismiss those that came out of the city and all those that came out of state. I went to the AFSCME site and with a click auto mailed all of you a email against the COO position. I listed my real name, with a Southington address. This email is wrong because the union is saying the COO position will be unaccountable. The COO will be working for the mayor.
If the management(mayor/council) team doesn't agree his/her skills he can get fired with no law suit against the city.
But, I lied when I sent the email through the AFSCME web site. I would prefer a town manager but a COO would be a step in the right direction.
Six months ago when I announced to the media my preference for a council/manager form of government, never in my mind did I realize I would be going against the unions. I thought the opposition would come from the councilmen who wanted to be mayor in the future.
Four or five years ago, Yarde Metals a non union company sent a thousand dollars to the men and women on strike for a very long time at a union shop on Pine Street. The UAW official at the time told the media that they had no problem accepting a check from a non union company. They said if employers treated their people like Yarde Metals, we wouldn't need a union.
Taking care of labor equally with management is what made Yarde Metals successful.
The problem with the city is not labor, The problem is the upper management organizational structure. Look at what we have here. We have a management team that turns over every two years including the CEO (mayor). On top of that we have two opposing political teams on the management team working at times against each other. You can see why it's difficult to get a everyone rowing the boat in the same direction. Forget about it!! What we are talking about here is giving an assistant to the mayor and council to help with all the moving parts. I'm advocating hiring a gray haired seasoned executive with knowledge of municipal affairs to assist the members on the management team. This COO knowledge will give our leaders a lot of value. We need to have a management team that can be more effective in meeting short and long term goals. The city needs to create a lean environment similar to Toyota. Everyone must be on board to eliminate all waste and create more efficiency. I think the future will get tougher than better and if we don't improve our organizational structure, there will be more 6 mil increases. I know some of you have conflicts because you get union benefits. You can agree or disagree with this change. All I ask of you is to pass this on so that voters can have a chance to determine our future in a referendum next year. The last four Charter Revision Committee have tried to get this to the public for a vote. Please pass it on. Let the voters decide. After all they are on top of the organizational chart. Thanks
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org