Centralized Nervous System
Under PG manager’s reorganization plan, departmental heads will roll.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
All city governments experience a “pendulum” of organization, swinging between centralized and decentralized services to correct the problems inherent in either extreme, says Pacific Grove City Manager Jim Colangelo. In PG’s case, he says the municipality has been too decentralized for too long, resulting in inefficiencies and inconsistencies. “It’s time to move the pendulum toward the centralized function,” he says.
If the City Council continues to approve stages of Colangelo’s reorganization plan, as it did unanimously on Feb. 21, the City will cut department head positions and shift their duties to new, central-level administrative posts. The plan is Colangelo’s answer to a City Council that asked him to bring PG out of its financial quicksand with its services intact and its books balanced.
“This City, over the last 20 years, has not been watching the ship,” Mayor Dan Cort says.
But the city manager’s plan isn’t intended to solve PG’s short-term budget shortfall. Rather, it’s an effort to shape up a city government that Colangelo says has become rather sloppy.
“The whole organization has been a little bit too stagnant for too long,” Colangelo says. “The department heads are putting in a lot of hours, but I think it’s an efficiency issue.”
The first round of cuts, beginning in April, will eliminate four positions: public works director, library director, cemetery office assistant, and an account clerk. The long-term proposal also suggests cutting the directors of community development, recreation, the golf course and the museum. That would leave all city departments except fire and police under the direction of central administrators and the immediate supervision of senior staff.
As PG has operated for decades, directors are responsible for administrative tasks such as hiring, disciplining and purchasing within their own departments—duties that leave them less time to do what they were trained to do. Colangelo offers as an example the golf and library directors, whose administrative work overshadows their abilities to manage the city’s golf course and improve library’s services, respectively.
Under the more centralized organization that Colangelo envisions, a principal analyst would manage city projects, a senior accountant would crunch budget figures, and a management analyst would oversee staff training. The administrative services director would be reclassified as the deputy city manager, responsible for a cross-section of administrative tasks, and three other positions would be reclassified.
The proposed reorganization has been dubbed “the Valentine’s Day massacre” because Colangelo told affected department heads on Feb. 14. But the city manager doesn’t see it as a massacre so much as a necessary overhaul. “I understand that it’s hard for an organization that’s been the same for so long to embrace it,” he says.
Colangelo hopes to eliminate some of the department head positions by attrition. The museum and library directors are scheduled to retire by the end of the year, but the public works director will be laid off in early April. The three other department heads slated for possible elimination may leave voluntarily, Colangelo says, but “if they’re not making that move, we’ll be evaluating the effectiveness of that department.”
City Golf Course Director Michael Leach says he hopes Colangelo will spare his position because he already works up to 60 hours per week, roughly 15 of those on tasks the City will centralize under the reorganization. “If we can justify our positions without having to do the additional administrative work, then we’re in good shape,” Leach says. “We still have plenty of irons in the fire.”
Stephen Leiker, the public works director who will be laid off, was not in the office on Feb. 26 and did not return calls. “I think he started his retirement,” said his assistant, Mariann Adams. “I’m kind of in the dark here.”
Though he understands that the proposed layoffs are harsh, Colangelo says he hopes an organizational overhaul will eventually renew Pagrovians’ trust in their city government. “I don’t think people are expecting us to do superhuman things, “he says, “but they do expect us to put in a good day’s work and be efficient with the resources we have.”