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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


My Notes from the 2/5/10 Council-Management Retreat

On Friday, February 5th, a long overdue City Council-Management Team retreat was held all day at the fire station on Clarence Street. The purpose of the retreat was threefold: to set council direction and goals for the next 2-3 years, identify short-term priorities, and build trust and better ways of working between staff and council. While we await a written report from the retreat facilitator, I thought I'd briefly write up my own notes from the day.

In the morning, the city council reviewed the city's assets and obstacles. Using a list of goals assembled from questionnaires the council had filled out prior to the meeting, we discussed and ranked those goals. The following emerged as our top seven:
  1. Re-establish Maplewood's Reputation — restore trust and respect between the citizens, staff, and elected officials, restore a positive image with our residents, the media and other government entitites

  2. Good Government — Make city government transparent and accessible, and operate with an environment of efficiency and mutual respect. Welcome and encourage citizen involvement, but not let the city's path be dictated simply by the loudest and most persistent voices that show up at city meetings.

  3. Parks Department — Reorganize, re-establish, revitalize; possible joint venture with neighboring communities

  4. (tie) Environmental Planning — Further develop processes for “going green”; enhance and fund open space management; includes follow-up on Fish Creek commission recommendations

  1. (tie) Fiscal Responsibility — Manage the city's finances and financial planning effectively, with an eye to providing stability and maximum value in the long term for our residents

  1. Complete the infrastructure upgrade process

  2. Redevelopment

In the afternoon, city department heads joined the retreat. Each councilmember and staff member in the retreat was asked to identify ten short-term objectives or priorities. The following items were on the list of majorities of both group (three or more councilmembers, plus six or more of the eleven management team staff):
  • Maintain Quality Services
  • Integration of Parks and Recreation; Parks Funding
  • Economic Development
  • Investment in Redevelopment
  • In-depth survey of citizens
  • Investment in infrastructure
With nine hours of work and discussion, there was a lot more to it than these two lists, but this provides at least some idea of the areas of consensus that emerged from the retreat. It was time well spent, and I look forward to working with my fellow councilmembers and the staff in going forward to achieve these goals and objectives.

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