I'm afraid I still think that what Council continues to fall short on is asking for adequate specific information supporting requests for funding and policy. I agree with Mr. Hensley in particular that Council's responsibility is to set direction and policy, not manage staff. In order to set useful direction, however, Council members need to understand the particulars of any action: what the causes for seeking the action are, what is required to act, and what the consequences of the action are likely to be. Too often we are presented with plans for action that come with too many assumptions and too late for council members to educate ourselves well and ask helpful questions. In addition, we have delayed following up on the whole council retreat work sessions.
If I could change one thing I did during 2010 it would be to be more clear about why I ask for costs of actions. I asked originally for costs on the Secret City Festival because it seemed to me an effort which is distinct from other ongoing activities and should be fairly easy to track.. This was taken by many, apparently, to be an assault on the festival. To the contrary, I hoped we could demonstrate that this popular event was inexpensive enough that we could presume a positive ROI from the associated elements that we can't track like hotel rooms, meals, gas and other purchases. Staff did an impressive job of pulling together approximate costs. What dismayed me was that we don't automatically track costs in ways that make it easier to decide what to keep and what to give up or postpone. As the city finds it necessary to make tough choices for the next few years, council and the rest of citizens need to know what things cost.
Consider, if you will, that the materials and contractor oversight for the Cedar Hill playground rebuild cost less that half of one year's expense for the Secret City Festival. The playground is expected to be more user-friendly than before and even safer and last for 20 to 40 years. The playground is available to the city's children every day. It is available to folks from outside Oak Ridge and attracts many on a continuing basis. The cost of materials looks like a big figure in a lump sum. If we ever had to choose between doing the festival one year and rebuilding the playground, wouldn't we want to know that the festival does not make a profit for the city? It's a delightful asset. I hope it can be continued indefinitely and evolve and grow. Wouldn't we like to know at what point it really is self-supporting?
For the coming year, I hope to direct more of my own attention to existing and new efforts to bring different additional retail and commercial service to town and to support the existing businesses. I also hope to spend more time building relationships with neighboring cities and the counties and engaging in cooperative efforts.
In addition, I hope to participate in a city-wide effort to recreate mutually supportive relationships between the citizenry and the police department and cooperation among all the city's groups.