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From the Publisher's Desk...

NOT SURE ANYONE IS REALLY MINDING THE STORE

Question: Where’s the boss? Seemingly, he’s never in the office keeping track of whether the many minions are really following through on their assignments and responsibilities. Instead, every day he’s everywhere “out in the field” — as the bureaucratic like to say when someone needs to track down a government manager.

Now, we don’t want to suggest that managers shouldn’t be out and around if it is their job to be checking up on the progress of on-going project work, for example. But when they’re out just to be out to be seen and to make it look like they are up to something useful, that is simply not useful.

So it is that we have come to the conclusion that our mayor is spending far too much time roaming the city in the belief that it somehow demonstrates that he is on top of things, keeping an eye out for problems and solving them on the spot. We think not.

All week long there is a constant stream of press advisories dropping into our email box informing us that the mayor will be making some breathless policy or staffing or project announcement in some far corner of the city and that if we want to get the inside skinny we need to spend valuable time slogging through traffic to get to his press conference where, if prior experience is any indication, he won’t want to answer questions of any importance anyway. (Interestingly, these events are usually held in neighborhoods not served by Metrorail or even by a convenient bus route.)

Wouldn’t it be much more productive — both for the mayor and the press — to hold these events at the Wilson Building or the Reeves Center? That way the mayor won’t have to waste hours driving himself hither and yon — he won’t even allow himself to have a driver like other sensible big city mayors which would permit him time to sit in the back seat and review documents, make calls and otherwise attend to business; frankly, we think that is just downright inefficient and smacks of poor executive skills.

Furthermore, some of these events border on the loony. An example was the more than one time last winter when snow was forecast that he insisted on getting the press to follow him all the way to far Northeast where DPW’s salt heaps are stored so that he could stand in front of a snow spreader truck with the hard-working public works department director standing at his side — especially pointless given that the man had a major responsibility to be coordinating the night’s efforts and needed to be back at his command center not wasting time being a prop for the mayor. Yes, it was important for the press to have the information about how the city was gearing up to make the streets safe but the question in our mind was why could that not have been accomplished by holding the press conference in the lobby of the Reeves Center where DPW is headquartered and where the press people could easily get to?

The reason we are seeming to beat this horse is that what we see by the mayor’s approach to management is a failure to spend the necessary time attending to the nitty-gritty of making certain that things are running smoothly throughout the departments and agencies for which he is ultimately responsible. We do not mean he should be a micro-manager; delegating is good management. But not being on top of things is not the same as not micro-managing.

If he were more attentive to watching the store we are convinced that the constant reports by residents of things not being done or being done shoddily or employees not getting the message about how issues should be properly addressed would not be so prevalent. Examples abound city-wide about failures to address valid complaints regarding simple things like the whacky parking enforcement operation, about hydrants still not working in too many places and water mains so clogged up with sediment that pressure is inadequate to fight fires or even let people easily fill their second floor bathtubs, of convoluted permit processes that guarantee inordinate delay of the kind so eloquently described by the contributor to this month’s Community Forum space on page 3 — or the even more frustrating culture of making excuses and blaming the other department, etc. The list can go on and on.

The mayor has not, from what we have seen, addressed these concerns. And it is these sorts of things that really set the taxpayers to question whether anything works, notwithstanding all the money they throw at the city. Unfortunately, it is this kind of impression that undermines recognition of the excellent performance of the majority of the city’s workers and managers who end up being lumped together with the upper echelon that is too distracted by who knows what.