Elected Bodies Need Guiding Principles

The Colorado City City Council recently approved an interesting set of guiding principles that they will use to govern Colorado City. A few highlights of the principles and comments from me in italics follow:

Principle 1: The Council will focus on policy and outcomes. The Council’s unique value is to ensure that the strategic direction leads the City to the desired outcome.

A Town Board, City Council and County Legislature are supposed to focus their efforts on establishing policies and the results desired. Sadly I see so few policy debates taking place at local government meetings.

Principle 2: The Council will focus on oversight without managing. The Council should not attempt to manage or tell staff how to do their job.

I don’t know what is is about the title of Board Member, Councilmember, Legislator or Congressman but many elected officials get way deep into the weeds and micro-manage the operation of departments. Getting directives from one’s supervisor and getting conflicting directives from an elected official is a horrible spot for staff members to be in.

Principle 3: The Council will develop an evaluation and accountability system for the City Manager.

Clear expectations of how success is defined and measured goes a long way towards having everyone communicating and being on the same page. As Chief of Staff to the Buffalo Common Council I had nine Councilmembers as my boss and no clear evaluation or accountability process. When I created my own evaluation form and asked staff reporting to me and Councilmembers to evaluate me it made people very uncomfortable. I got summoned to the Majority Leaders office who expressed his displeasure to my seeking an evaluation of my performance.

Principle 4: The Council will evaluate its own performance.

Very few elected bodies evaluate their own performance. Healthy organizations that are seeking to continuously improve evaluate how they are doing.

I give the Colorado City Council credit for discussing and adopting principles to guide how they conduct business, as very few elected bodies do so. Of course living up to these principles is easier said then done.

What do you think about the principles adopted by Colorado City? If you are an elected official looking to make a difference, at your next meeting introduce a Resolution to adopt guiding principles of your own. Your Resolution at the very least will spark an interesting discussion that may actually lead to some needed changes in your community. If you are a concerned citizen draft a Resolution and get an elected official to sponsor it or file it yourself and request that it be placed on the agenda of your next community meeting.


Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply