October 13, 2008

Ward says assistants a better answer than chief operating officer

Instead of opting for a new chief operating officer for City Hall whose pay, duties and ability to get things done remain murky, Mayor Art Ward said he’d rather see a couple of mayoral assistants added to the staff to help cope with the workload.

Ward said he’d consider backing a plan that would let the mayor hire an assistant and to have the City Council hire another assistant to work in the mayor’s office.

With more help, he said, Bristol’s top leader would have a greater ability to attend hearings in Hartford, send representatives to community meetings and more.

The possibility of adding assistants stands in sharp contrast to the controversial proposal offered in a Nov. 4 charter referendum that calls for creating a chief operating officer to oversee city department heads.

Supporters say that a professionally trained chief operating officer will bring more efficiency to City Hall, along greater continuity. They say they have no doubt the creating the post will save money for taxpayers.

Ward said that those pushing for the new post need to “tell the people exactly what is wrong with our present position” at City Hall.

He said that Bristol has a fully funded pension plan, a solid bond rating, a Board of Finance that has kept spending under control for decades and an educational system that is admired across the state for delivering high test scores despite “relatively low spending” on the schools.

“Nobody has demonstrated to me the dire need for reform,” Ward said.

Ward said that if the mayor’s job is so burdensome that it needs the relief offered by a chief operating officer’s help, then hiring a couple of assistants would accomplish the same result for less money.

New Britain, he said, has five assistants for its mayor and other cities the size of Bristol have much larger staffs for the mayor than Bristol, which offers him only an administrative assistant.

Under former Mayor Gerard Couture, who served from 2003 to 2005, the city had a part-time aide for the mayor as well, who earned $25,000 annually.

But Couture’s successor, William Stortz, opted not to fill the post.

City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said the mayoral assistant’s position is no longer in the municipal budget.

Ward said that letting the mayor pick an assistant and having the council pick a second assistant would ensure that the choices “were not just dictatorial.”

He said that having assistants who could pick up some of the slack would allow a mayor to spend more time in Hartford attending key hearings and talking to the state officials who decide how much aid comes to Bristol and its projects.

Ward said there’s no doubt that it’s necessary “to tweak” city government regularly, to keep it functioning as well as possible.

But, he said, adding a chief operating officer whose focus would be solely internal wouldn’t be much help.

Ward said he sees merit in the argument that city needs greater continuity in its leadership, one of the reasons touted for a chief operating officer.

He said he would like to see mayors have four-year terms instead of facing reelection after just two years.

That would allow a mayor time “to accomplish a set agenda” before his term ends.

Ward said that city councilors should have three-year terms, with their terms staggered so that all of them would not be up for reelection in the same year.

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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow, some inexpensive common sense, is this going to be on the ballot also or do we have to go into another one of those charter messes again?

Anonymous said...

Hiring a mayoral assistant(s) is a much better idea.

The COO will be on the ballot as a proposed charter change.
Just vote "No" if you don't like the proposal.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how an "assistant" would solve what Mr. Yarde described as the problem in managing the departments. It's not the paper work, it's the management stupid.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Assistants is the best idea. But I think $35k full time would suffice. And I also agree a longer term in office is needed. The mayors barely get their feet wet and they are up for re-election....that's why nothing ever gets done around here!

Anonymous said...

The COO would be a lot more than a hand picked assistant or two. The COO would have a professional background and experience that would benefit the tax payers first and foremost. The COO would also be a resource to the Mayor but not beholden to him/her.


"Sec. 62 Chief Operating Officer.
(b) The COO shall:
(1) Be responsible to exercise general supervision over the following officers of the city: the City Clerk, the Comptroller, the Purchasing Agent, the Assessor, the Tax Collector, the Library Director, the Fire Chief, the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, the Director of Public Works, the Building Official, the Chief of Police, the Superintendent of Water, the Corporation Counsel, the Director of Personnel, the Director of Community Services, the Executive Director of the Bristol Development Authority, the Youth Services Director, and the Director of Aging. These responsibilities shall include, but not be limited to, supervising, and evaluating, and disciplining these officers of the city.
(2) At any time, summon before him any officer of said city for information, consultation and advice upon the affairs of the city.
(3) Communicate to the mayor and the city council such information concerning the affairs of the city, and such suggestions and recommendations relating thereto, as the interest of the city shall, in his judgment require.
(4) Communicate to the mayor and the city council such information concerning the affairs of the city, and such suggestions and recommendations relating thereto, as the mayor or city council shall request.
(5) Provide strategic planning and coordination among the various city departments to more successfully implement the, budget and policies and procedures of the city.
(6) Provide leadership and direction to all officers and employees of the city to develop and implement the city budget in conjunction with the comptroller and the Board of Finance, customer service initiatives, personnel initiatives, departmental technology evaluations and initiatives, program evaluation, grant activity, legislative initiatives, and other matters as in the interest of the city as in the COO’s judgment require.
(7) Develop and administer effective programs to promptly address citizen inquiries and complaints.
(8) Aid the mayor and city council in recruiting and developing qualified candidates for appointment to the various city boards, commissions and other appointed offices.
(9) Shall attend all city council and board of finance meetings and other meetings necessary to fulfill the duties of the COO’s office.
(10) Other duties as the mayor and the city council may from time to time designate."

Anonymous said...

put all of the fluff on the COO proposal that you want but no one has stated or proven that it would be better, more efficient or more financially prudent than ward's proposal, or anything else for that matter.
this COO idea seems to be going along the same path as McCain's campaign - all promise but no substance - VOTE NO on the COO.

Anonymous said...

Assistants are a much better alternative (and much less expensive). At a time when everyone needs to tighten their belts, assistants just make more sense.

VOTE NO COO!

Anonymous said...

The COO position is just a glorified and extremely overpaid assistant. An aide or two is a much better option. Great idea Mr. Ward!

Anonymous said...

Seems Ward is beginning to realize that the COO position has a chance of being passed. Why wasn't this idea presented before?

Vote Yes on the COO issue.

Anonymous said...

That is a good thought. Now Ward can bring back Kosta and we can go full circle.

John Reek said...

wow a coherant alternative to the horrible C.O.O. idea
Vote no COO

Anonymous said...

Gee, if he had an assistant, maybe we would have some answers to the questions that are being asked about the COO position.

I understand that many have not been answered.

Comments, Art???

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Ever get any answers to the questions being raised?

We need to know.

Steve Collins said...

Ward said Friday in an email to Stortz that the city attorney is looking into the answers.
But I should mention that it doesn't seem particularly incumbent on the mayor, who opposed the COO, to answer the questions, since it's not his idea and he doesn't have any real interest in justifying it.
It might be better to address Stortz's questions to the group that is pushing the COO referendum. Perhaps it's got the answers.
The other point I should make is that we're never going to know all the answers to everyone's questions about the COO before election day. It simply is impossible. Some of this comes down to whether you have faith that it will work out for the better or not.

Tim Gamache said...

12:53 How much staff do you think might be required to accomplish all those duties?As I've said before,the only way I vote yes for a COO is if "anyone" can prove to me that the combined cost for the position(salary and benefits for COO AND staff) will be "substancially" less than the revenue the position generates.The "common sense" argument I've heard won't do.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who posted the, I assume, proposed charter language @ 1253.

My reading of it suggests that this language conflicts with many other sections of the City Charter and probably labor contracts.

Second, do we really want all those department heads reporting to the COO and not the mayor? The mayor would then get a filtered, third hand report from the COO instead of the actual information from the horses mouth so to speak.

Third, section 3 says the COO would report suggestions and recommendation that, in the COO's judgment, are in the city's best interest. So now your giving an unelected person the power to decide what's in the best interest of the City instead of the Mayor whom the voters elected??? That's exactly why I'm against the COO -- I have control over the mayor and council but I won't with the COO. We did not like the direction that Couture took with the mall so me and all the other voters got rid of him. Won't happen with a COO.

I also agree with the other poster who said this is nothing more than a glorified, overpaid assistant.

And I agree with Steve, we won't have enough information by election day, and no, I am not willing to make this leap of faith.

Vote NO for COO.

Anonymous said...

But can they provide the legitimate Charter interpretation.

Can they propose and implement a salary and budget?

I would think that is why Stortz addtressed these to the mayor.

Anonymous said...

Ward can get an assistant now: all he has to do is get Council support, or at least 3 plus him.

Anonymous said...

Guess ward is admitting that he isn't getting the job done.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

If (according to Glenn Klocko) we can't afford two assistants how can we afford the COO?

Anonymous said...

5:32

We could have a lot more information if the Mayor would provide it.

He is aware of the questions.

What is he waiting for?

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that if this passes, no changes can be made to correct the MANY errors, without another Charter Change Committee, which will take well over a year again.

Anonymous said...

Sounds more like Ward knows how to get the job done and keep Bristol moving forward!

Anonymous said...

What Ward has essentially done is taken part of the GOP platform. They proposed longer terms for the Mayor and counsel (sith staggered terms). They also proposed the COO. I know that he is against that, but he is at least swinging into their camp a little, which I appreciate. Just because it came from the opposite part does not mean some of the ideas aren't good ones. I give Art credit for not taking the polar opposite just b/c his party didn't push these ideas. If the COO does not pass, two assistants could be helpful and changing the lenght of terms are both great ideas.

Good Job Art!

Anonymous said...

I am convinced that if the questions and answers were made known to the public, this would go down in flames.

What is Ward waiting for??

Steve Collins said...

I have absolutely no inside knowledge, but I strongly suspect the lawyers are going to say they can't go around interpreting what the charter change might mean.

Odin said...

Art is missing the point of the COO, or, more precisely, inventing a strawman argument against it. The problem isn't that Bristol mayors are over-worked - the problem is they're under-qualified. None of them have ever actually done any of the jobs that they are suddenly expected to oversee. They have no meaningful experience running an enterprise like Bristol. Hiring an "assistant" doesn't add to the brain trust in the Mayor's Office - it's just one more patronage position to award to a friend or relative.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim: are you going to abstain from voting for President too, since neither McCain nor Obama can "prove" that they are the better candidate?

Anonymous said...

would seem to me that the answers to stortz's questions should be able to be answered by yarde, johnson and minor - they are the supporters of this package.
where are they now?

Anonymous said...

Steve,

If the lawyers can't interpret the Charter, who can??

Are they saying that they did not review the proposed chages before the question was put on the ballot?

And what do they have to do with the question of salary and other costs?

Ward is up to something.

There probably is a story in it you if you dig deeper.

Anonymous said...

To be fair here... It is not Art's job to answer the questions on the COO position. Remember he is against it. These questions need to be answered by all the group(s) proposing the change.

Anonymous said...

It IS Arts job to keep the public informed and answer questions posed by the public, as well as to take steps to avoid problems.

Art wants it both ways.

The pro group does not have the authority or objectivity to answer the questions for the the City (PUBLIC).

And, did his staff not review this issue before it was formalized?

If not, shame on them!!!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't longer terms for the Mayor, more council members and longer staggered terms for council members part of the Bristol First (GOP) platform?

Art you are funny! People are actually liking the "government reform issue" so you better jump on board. It is a good issue by the way, but you are such a Johny Come Lately it is ridiculous. Who knows, maybe the winds will change next week and you can come out in support of some other initiative you had nothing to do with.

Oh and two administrative assistants do not equal a COO. They might be equal to you and your experience and background, but not to a true professional.

Anonymous said...

The whole COO concept is a disaster in the making. Shame on the pro group for trying to push this mess through to further their own agenda.

Vote NO COO!

Anonymous said...

The City, i.e. Elected Officials raised the question regarding the Union Contracts.
Did they get an answer, or do they care?
I do not think that one can or should count on Yard and Johnson for a meaningful or learned answer to that particular issue, and I question their appropriatenees in answering the other question too!

Frankly, Ward is copping out, agian!

Anonymous said...

10:30....You're so funny! Trying to make Ward the scapegoat for the ill-defined, poorly patched together COO debacle is laughable. The pro-COO group's unprofessional management and sloppy presentation of this issue proves who the real "goats" are. I can only hope all of Bristol joins me in voting a resounding NO to the COO!

Anonymous said...

The pro-COO people aren't to blame for the awkward wording of the charter amendment, nor for the Mayor's inability to answer Bill Stortz's questions. They are just a bunch of private citizens who think hiring a COO, even with flawed language, is a good idea. If you don't agree, vote no. It's a free country.

Has anyone else noticed the irony of the fact that if there were a COO now, it would be his job to answer all these questions?

Anonymous said...

2:57

No it wouldn't.
He, or she, would still rely on the attorneys as Ward should be doing.

Maybe he is the best justification for a COO (if it was done properly).

Anonymous said...

Maybe Stortz wasn't so bad after all.

Anonymous said...

Stagnant Stortz - no thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'll take Stortz any day, every day, especially over your Mr. Johnson.

Anonymous said...

hopefully we will get some official answers to the COO issue, not the propoganda from YArd, Johnson and Shaffrick.

Anonymous said...

12:50: $35K??? Are you kidding? The Mayor's secretary makes more than that!!!

Anonymous said...

Stop Stortz Just Stop, you were terrible.

Anonymous said...

I predict Ragini and Gamache.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was good that Johnson got dropped from the Water Board. Now he is free to respond to questions on the COO issue.

We'll see if he does.

Anonymous said...

10:22 - yeah, ken johnson will respond, just like he did about the municipal energy issues - only if/when it serves HIS best interests.

Anonymous said...

Who is Ken Johnson?

Anonymous said...

4:12 - who is ken johnson? the former president of municipal energy who wanted to be the mayor, and lost,and went back to being the president of municipal energy, who thinks that he wants to be the new city COO but if that doesn't work, he will run for mayor again and if he loses that again, he will go back to being the president of municipal energy again and run for........

Anonymous said...

Oh.
That Ken Johnson.
I thought he was the one that couldn't make commission meetings and was removed.

Anonymous said...

Art, could you really work with an assistant that was picked by the Council, a Council you can't get along with or work with?

Who the hell ever heard of something like that?

Tim Gamache said...

10:16 Thanks for the vote of confidence but I am neither qualified nor would I accept(LOL).

Anonymous said...

I was just informed that the wording of the coo question has to appear exactly as it was presented by the charter revision commission - seeing that it was not accepted by the city council, the administration cannot nor has any reason to review it and answer the interpretation of it - that falls to those who are asking you to vote in favor of the proposal such as minor, cockayne, johnson and yarde/

Anonymous said...

But can one depend on the quality and accuracy of the answer from yard johnson and cockayne?

Anonymous said...

3:22, please forward your views to bill stortz - he has a letter in the press today seeking answers to the questions that he asked the city about this.

Anonymous said...

bill knows that the council is prohibited from offering up answers and that the coo committee should be giving the answers, he is just doing his normal grandstanding

Anonymous said...

HOw would Stortz know about that? Apparently all the council was surprised, including Ward, who, if he knew it, could have reponded in kind, promptly. And should have.

Seems like Minor and Cockayne didn't know about it either.

Anonymous said...

So you are saying that a question could be put on the ballot that was illegal, or had significant flaws, and the public coudn't be told that that was the case?

Absurd!!!

Anonymous said...

And Artie has 15 years in Office???

Must be a slow learner.