What Are We REALLY Doing?

Categories Government

From the Executive Summary of the City’s Operational Efficiency Assessment:

Ultimately the strategy and direction for the City are set at the top by the Council and key members of leadership through the articulation of a set of strategic parameters such as the mission, vision, values, and goals… The City of Belmont currently does not have any of this information established, nor is it routinely tracking much in the way of performance metrics.

2019 Operational Efficiency Assessment – Summary of Findings

When confronting a difficult decision (such as a controversial re-zoning petition, for example), it’s a good idea to ask what our end-goal is. As the above assessment indicates, we don’t currently know what that is. And we don’t have any way of measuring success. What are our goals as a city? Do we want more growth or less growth? Why? What does “growth” even mean? Does it mean population growth or economic growth or is there some other definition that we should consider? Without knowing the answers to basic questions like these, we will just wander from decision to decision without any clear sense of direction or purpose. As the Assessment notes, how do you know if hiring three new police officers/firemen/etc is appropriate if you don’t know why you’re hiring them?

This also means that we need to be able to track our performance against these clearly-defined goals. And that means that we need to do a better job of collecting even very basic data.  I have run into this myself just through my service on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. A few years ago, we were evaluating changes to the fee schedule for things like picnic shelter rentals, etc. Yet, we apparently don’t collect any data on how much any of those facilities are used and only very limited data on how much we are raising from these rentals. How can we make a decision about whether we need to raise or lower fees if we don’t even know how often the shelters are being used? That’s just a simple example, but it also applies to some of the larger problems the city is facing. How much have police and fire calls increased as the city has grown? How has attendance at our festivals changed as the city has grown? How many people can we expect to use the shiny new kiosks that we just spent $72,000 on? How many people are actually using them?

If we don’t know how to define and measure success, what are we even doing?

The son of teachers, Marc grew up in Raleigh and graduated from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill with a degree in Economics. He is the senior claims data analyst in the Business Intelligence unit for a national insurance carrier, while also operating a small rental business with his wife, Cherry.

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