Friday, June 27, 2008

The Tipping Point – A Systemic Perspective

Tucson, Arizona. Anyone paying attention to local politics, even just the mainstream media, knows that Tucson is struggling on many fronts which always include financial affairs. Council Member Leal with a fair shot of having the required votes (Romero, Uhlich, and Scott) has called for City Manager Mike Hein’s resignation. Hein's supporters, which include the Mayor, argue Hein is trying to get things done without subjecting himself to paralyzing micromanagement by a council that takes forever to make a decision.

Without getting into specific complaints, one should know the context that Hein was more or less anointed after circumventing the usual process of a wide search carefully narrowed down over successive events leading to a selection. Instead, rich folks well acquainted with Cloth (e.g. McMahon, Click) or Cloth incarnate (e.g. Hecker, Snell, Myers, Walker, ..) just declared Hein should be the guy, and so he was, just like that, even though he didn’t apply for the job (sort of).

At risk of oversimplifying, are we not witnessing a council increasingly impatient with the expectation that they collect their tiny stipends, stay mostly in the dark, and vote on something now and then, letting the "strong manager manage" without too much interference? Why are they impatient? Why are council members experiencing pressure to interfere? Think. Rising over the fray, we could ask that as Tucson grows, are we facing a system of governance increasingly ineffective no matter what cast of characters occupy what slots?

Jumping to extremes has pitfalls, but it can elucidate concepts. Consider huge cities with enormous populations and their governments. How are New York City or Philadelphia or Chicago governed? In a sentence, they use a strong Mayor and strong council populated by full time people respectfully compensated. Departments report to this Mayor.

I grow increasingly skeptical of the weak Mayor and strong City Manager model as a community’s population grows. While a fully paid city manager with marginally paid mayor/councils might make sense for Snowflake or Show Low, does it really continue to work for Phoenix or Tucson? Phoenix (and perhaps all towns in Arizona) continues to use the strong city manager approach with weak Mayors and councils paid next to nothing.

Of course I don’t know how this summer will shake out, and folks that just dismiss Leal’s letter and the sentiments behind it do not understand the frustrations brewing in this town. Rio Nuevo is a farce. Economic Development is past pathetic, and Workforce Development is even worse. Will Tucson ever see the day when it has full time, well compensated elected officials (who must face the polls regularly) given the authority and the responsibility to govern and manage? Would such a system produce superior results?

I don’t know, but the fire is growing and getting hotter, and so long as corruption, nepotism, favoritism, and all things "cloth" funnel millions to do nothing suits in do nothing agencies, the noise will continue.

People don’t like it when others drink their milk shake.


Blogger Jay Queue said...

Great Reading! Excellent blog! I love your list of interests, gigantic lists of books and movies, and for music, "Nine Inch Nails." Wry. Caught your blog by looking for people who listed "Angel Heart." The future isn't what it used to be! -- James in Albuquerque

6/27/2008 12:39 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

X4mr may not toot his own horn, but I will. You should consider some of the quintessential x4mr stories that make this place what it is.

The Border:
Trip to the Border
Inland Empire
The Border

The word omnivore will never be the same.
The wheel is turning but the hamster is dead.
Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don’t have film.


Freedom Is Slavery
Junkies on Junk

The above is just a taste.

6/27/2008 4:25 PM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

Nav, sometimes I wonder about you, but thanks for those links. They bring back some good memories.

You forgot his Certified Anus program, which had me laughing on and off throughout the day I read it.

As an FYI, you realize (or should) the following focus area subcommittees of the city council and who chairs each committee:

Romero: Children, Families, and Seniors.
Uhlich: Environment, Planning, and Resource Management
Glassman: Neighborhoods, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Leal: Economic and Workforce Development
Scott: Transportation
Trasoff: Rio Nuevo / Downtown, Arts, Culture and History.

You also should know, by intergovernmental agreement, the city accepted primary responsibility for economic development and the county took workforce development. That history must be taken into account to understand the situation.

I won't get into the city's handling of economic development, GTEC, etc., but regarding the county's handling of workforce development, you have been to WIB meetings. You also know that the county gave the Deputy Director of Workforce Development position (in an act of pure nepotism) to a small minded buffoon with the equivalent of a 4th grade education.

In other words, to blame city council members, as your story already suggests to a point, for the progress/disaster in the areas addressed by the committees they chair is flawed. In fact, the relationship between the city and the county and what controls what must be considered for your story to rise to a more powerful level.

I am surprised by how many seem to think that Leal's letter is a mindless slip. Think Chess. Play out the moves several steps out. Do you really believe no thought has been given to the replacement if the removal is successful, to what happens if the removal is not successful?

6/27/2008 9:15 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Thanks for the kind words. I had a good time writing some of those stories, laughing pretty hard while making some of them.

I am aware of what you speak and know that this story is more "just thinking" than anything. The system is not going to change any time soon, and certainly not because of anything here.

Word on the street though is that frustration with local leadership (whoever that is) is increasing and significantly.

It sickens me when valuable, hard working people lose their jobs so people that do nothing whatsoever (Snell, Singer, etc.) can keep theirs. What a tragedy this week.

The jerks probably gloat every time they shed innocent blood.

6/28/2008 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conflict of interest and nepotism rule this town. Your "tipping point" occurs when the collusion and incest is brought under the spotlight.

It is starting to happen. Keep your eyes open. Many of the key names are already in your blog.

BTW-Your courage is commendable. No other blog gets near the waters in which you swim. You are a cloth gadfly that defies the assumptions of their playing field. I love it.

PS: Hein ever "friendly" with anyone Uhlich knows (to her chagrin)? Hein and Trasoff share any common advisers?

6/28/2008 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Didn't a prominent police official recently retire with a well paved path to city manager?

Perhaps I was just dreaming.

Nina's campaign finance manager has no involvement whatsoever with Mike Hein, and of course no one working with Karin Uhlich would "touch" Hein without Karin's knowledge.

6/28/2008 2:50 PM  

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