Part of the reports on equity talk about making government more accessible, including people of color and those affected in decision making and asking questions about what unintended consequences might be from the decision making, THIS is not it. This is exhibit A of what not to do.
I went to this meeting to find out what information might be said about a particular issue and hear what they said on an agenda item called “Baker Tilly Recommendations Follow-Up”. There was no further explanation of what the item was, no links to anything in legistar. There were three people who waited to the end of the agenda to hear this item, or at least just hung out to see what else might be said about another issue, even tho it was not on the agenda. I might have wanted to comment on this issue, or maybe others would have, but we had no information about what would be talked about. Here is what I heard without the handouts. The use of first names in here is what they said, no introductions of who they were or anything, so anyone new to the situation would probably be asking who these people were. The chair and elected officials names were left out so as to not give clues as to what committee it is, to see if you can guess what they are talking about. A few people will know from some of the clues, but I’d be surprised if it is more than 500 in this county of nearly 500,000.
The chair says that there are plenty of handouts that can be put in legistar, A department head starts off by saying that they know they have 10 minutes and this is the first in what they think will be continued as updates on the Baker Tilly POS assessment. We spent, Jean and her staff, spent a lot of time reviewing the study that Baker Tilly did, prioritizing based on need and what they thought was workable based on the ranking system. Jean is going to spend the majority of her 10 minutes actually talking about that, but then what they have done is take the results of that and put it in to a work plan which they now envision being an annual work plan like they do in the divisions that they will update on a yearly basis to show the progress on the elements they started out with and adding as doable other ones.
An elected official asks if the materials are in legistar or on their website. Staff says, not they are not, I just . . . they can be. They will work with another staff to get that done. I think the chair said they will be.
Jean says, as Lynn mentioned, part of the time will be spent talking to you about how the department went about prioritizing and choosing the recommendations that they have identified to be included in the work plan. She shared two tools in making those priority decisions as well as the work plan that came out of it. They had a discussion with the chair and he had requested that the department take the lead in identifying priorities in the Baker Tilly POS contract assessment report. He was really interested in that to take the time to get input from staff, not just the managers in the departments but a larger group of staff. He also shared with us a survey tool that we might use and that survey tool would rank each recommendation on two scales, one on perceived community need and want, and the other scale was on difficulty of implementation. The survey went out to our departments management team, to the participants in the internal work team that worked with Baker Tilly and to the contract managers and there is some overlap. They got 14 responses of 24 surveys that were sent, and a lot of responses in the action and priority matrix, if a survey did not include a response to both a community need and want, and difficulty of implementation, it could not be plotted on the decision matrix, and she did find that some surveys came back and the individuals felt like they were not knowledgeable enough to score on the implementation because they did not know how hard it would be to implement, so she would occasionally get an answer to one piece and not the other. So you can see (actually right, you can’t can you?) from the matrix that there are some clear majorities on those items. She says on the left side is the number of the recommendation and in parentheses is the number of responses that put that recommendation in that box. So anywhere where you have 5 or more responses that is where you have a third or more of your responders agreeing with the fact that . . . for example for 4a, which is in the top left box, we had 7 responders that all agreed that it was a high impact recommendation and a very easily implemented one. So on the upper left, under quick wins, are those recommendations that were identified as high impact and low effort and these are often the most attractive projects because you are getting a good return for relatively low effort, if you look to the far right, under major projects, those are projects that have high impact and high effort and those will give you good return, but they will also take more resources. If you look at the bottom of the matrix, we have what are called “fill ins” those are lower impact, low effort and only one item is in that box, so if you can get to it great, but not a urgent need. On the bottom right we have what we call the Hard Slogs and those items are considered low impact and require high effort and resources to implement. Once they looked at the matrix and tried to figure out how to further prioritize these items, they then created a second tool to look at it, that is the second item that they gave you. (But they didn’t) What they wanted to do was look at each recommendation under each scale individually so they created a mechanism for scoring each one and they got a high, med or low score. High was 5, med was 3 and low was 1. So they were able to give an average score for each recommendation on each scale. She hopes she is not being too confusing here. So on the first one on the first page, 7a, we have an average score for need and want at 4.43 and a difficulty score of 3.86 for this recommendation. Once they scored all the recommendations on these two scales, she ordered them from high to low and she took the top 10 and thought on these two lists do we have any of them that fall into both categories, fall into the top 10 on community need and ease of implementation and that is what you see on page 4, there are 5 recommendations that fall into the categories of need and implementation. And the department has decided it would pursue these 5 recommendations and the department has decided they would fullfill these recommendations. So, if you turn to page two, we have what remains of the top 10 of need only, in percieved community need, these are the remaining 5 of that top 10 and you can see from the difficulty score, the lower the number the more difficult it is, these fall in to the major project area. On this page we decided that the department should try to pursue the first two, for the department and the county board should be looking at the first two items. The department head says, this is to start, we’re not saying we shouldn’t address all of these but we needed to start somewhere, we can’t take this whole thing on, so we wanted to attempt to pick some out, develop a work plan for the first year and see how far we can get and keep revising that work plan on an annual basis the same way we do. The chair reiterates that they picked those two because the need was the highest even tho they were hard to do. The speaker says they tried to not pick just the ones that were the quick ones, but look at how they were ranked. The top 2 on page two and if you turn to page three, what we have here are the remaining 5 recommendations that were on the top 10 list on ease of implementation and on this list we chose to take the top two. (At this point, the department head gets up and hands me the hand outs and said “Brenda, you were typing, so I didn’t get this to you” when she handed the handout to one of the three spectators in the room, an executive director of another agency. Not sure why the third guy never got it handed to him, he works in an agency favored by the staff, so maybe they were sent it in advance? Not sure. Or maybe he wasn’t an executive director of an agency so he wasn’t important enough to get it, who knows.) Pause . . . speaker says that they really did spend time as staff and from the comments she received from the survey people really need a point to comment outside of just the questions, they thought people were really thoughtful about looking at this and gave it their attention. If you’d like we could go into the final piece that was developed. Chair said “please”. We’ve identified, what they did was sketch out a work plan, they identified a lead for each of those recommendations. The department head says what you are going to see here is basically the steps and timeline and who the lead will be and what they see as the implementation. There are a couple things that they will note, because they did hear from you months ago when this came out that you wanted periodic updates so they would see that they will individually undertake these tasks and they would report to you on an individual basis. She has two comments and then Jean really deserves the credit for this. XX is going to undertake performance evaluators comment, they see that as the first step in performance based contracting and we need to position ourselves before we can do performance based contracting and of course, we need to agree on performance indicators and we need to get those in contracts and figure out mutually how to both agree on the indicators and how to measure them, you can’t do performance based contracting if you don’t have that in place. They do take that recommendation seriously, we are all interested in it, but that is a long haul process and we will need to identify resources in the way of data and staff that we need to accomplish it but we see page 3 as the beginning of that process. The other one she wanted to point out to you, and we don’t mean to be flip about this, but we really feel that (ok, this will give it away for a lot more people) COLAs and the struggle of the POS agencies have is real, but we see two solutions to that, that is more money in our budget or its prioritizing, meaning essentially what Baker Tilly said, stop doing unmandated stuff we do and fund the mandated stuff we do, the department is really not in a position on either one of those, we feel it is the County Exec. and the County Board who need to figure out a direction on that, so they put it in the work plan because they see it as absolutely important and a real concern and probably one of the major concerns of the POS community to take away from the Baker Tilly report, but they really feel they are not in a position to do anything about that. As you all know, a 1% COLA for continuing is about $1 million and we are not in a position to find $1M in their budget, so they put it on the workplan, because they feel it needs to be there, but the work plan reflects that it really needs to be the County Executive and County Board that need to undertake that. They do have ideas about, they wrote them up and then they said “really, we’re overstepping out boundries” by telling you what your plan should be so it is left the way it is.
I’m going to leave it here, today’s point was to show how absurd it would have been to
a) Know what the agenda items was
b) Testify intelligently on this item
c) Try to follow along with what they were presenting
There are a whole host of other issues in that they only talked to the staff, not the agencies who are affected or the people served by those agencies. I’m curious how many people of color were in the 24 who got the survey or the 14 that responded, and I’m guessing because they were county workers and mostly managers, none were low income, but depending on family size, some might have been.
Anyways, tomorrow I will interpret this for you once I get an opportunity to scan in the documents I got, find the report they are talking about and decipher what all the numbers of the recommendations mean. I gotta say, they don’t want the community involved in this, the pesky few Executive Directors who pay attention to this committee are widely known as pain in the asses and ultimately, those who will be impacted by this prioritizing and choosing what to work on are not even really being considered at this point. It’s about as far from the equity report as you could possibly get. And, if you’re still in the dark, don’t feel bad, you should be. This is government at its worst when it comes to trying to get involved and make a difference. Tomorrow I’ll add the supervisors questions, when they make more sense and I’ll tell you what they are whispering needs to happen – unions, nonprofits, you’ll need to pay attention!
If you agree that documents like this should be available in advance of the meeting, Heidi Wegleitner has an ordinance that will be before the Executive Committee at 5:30 Thursday (Room 354 in the City County Building) that would address this. Contact the executive committee here.
For the record, on the other item I was there for, the Day Center, which was not on the agenda:
Ronn Ferrell asks about when they voted to purchase 1490 Martin St., wasn’t this committee supposed to hold a hearing in that area by the end of June.
Lynn Green says no, that was another committee, Lynn Green was supposed to do it with Supervisor Stubbs and they held two of them and we were sort of delaying the other one because, you know, the update is that they are appealing the zoning and we don’t know that we are going to be on Martin St.
Ronn asks if they can have an update in August, we may be not going to Martin St. and its the 15th of July and what is our contingency, that would be something I would be asking at that meeting. The chair says they will put that on the agenda.
Wegleitner says there is also resolution 86 ($4M for a downtown location, referred to the committee in May) that hasn’t been scheduled in this committee, so you might want to think about that.
Jeremy Levin, the chair, simply says “noted”. From the tone, I think that meant “go to hell, not going to happen”. He asks if there are any more items of discussion and moves on.
If you are interested in this issue, the best thing to do is email your county board supervisors (firstname.lastname@example.org), ask them to pull this from committee, three of them have not acted, and to put this on their agenda for August 14th.
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