Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#atxcouncil: City Manager Finalists meet the Public


"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;"
1 Peter 5:2

We attended last night's forum with the City Manager finalists and spoke with the Statesman on the way out:
Adam Cahn, a local blogger, said that his main concern was City Council ending up locking itself into a long-term contract in hiring the city manager. He said both candidates seemed able, but he preferred Lazarus.

“Lazarus at least knows what he is talking about,” Cahn said. “Cronk seems like he is just full of government clich├ęs.”
To elaborate: As we explained last month, we're not particularly impressed with any of the candidates.  Given this reality, we prefer to keep whomever is hired on a short leash.  Thus, no long term contract.

FWIW, Mayor Adler told us last night he agreed about not making a long term commitment.

As we told the Statesman, Spencer Cronk was full of the bureaucratic cliches one usually hears at these type of government events: "engagement," "dialogue," "stakeholders,"diversity," "inclusion," "equity," "comprehensive plan," "outreach," holistic," and "strategic" to name a few.

Worse, Cronk dodged the question about affordability.  Speaking of housing, he said "I'm not a housing expert."  Typical of his performance, he reverted to cliches when asked about streamlining permitting.

Howard Lazarus wasn't anything special but at least he a) has private sector experience and b) understands Austin.

Lazarus used to run Austin's public works department.  Obviously, that's not something we consider in his favor.  But that does mean he understands some of the unique factors that make Austin Austin.

On CodeNext, Lazarus paid lip service to both sides.  But at least he knows what CodeNext is and he understands the community discussion.  The other guy would probably have to have a "holistic stakeholder dialogue."

Lazarus spoke favorably of "reducing the cost of construction" on residential building.  Again, that might be lip service, but at least it's lip service that identifies the correct problem.  Lazarus also appeared skeptical of corporate "incentive" packages.

Lazarus floated the idea of moving to a two year budget cycle.  We don't necessarily endorse this, but it's an idea worth considering.  The state of Texas budgets biannually and, whatever you think of the Texas state budget generally, from a process perspective there's something to be said for taking a breath between budget cycles (*).

Bottom Line: Neither finalist impresses.  But, between the two, Lazarus clearly possesses a better understanding of our community.  Mostly, we want to keep whoever is hired on a short leash while revisiting the issue in a few years.

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* -- A two year budget cycle might also make zero-based budgeting more feasible.

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