Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2021  
  < RETURN  
  Confusion at City Hall
October 1, 2021

One of the most time consuming things the Mayor’s Office Staff does is “constituent casework,” which consists of taking calls and/or emails from mostly disgruntled residents (and sometimes businesses). My staff spends consistently a collective total about 30 hours a week, or more, on these calls. That’s over 120 hours a month, or the equivalent of 16 working days – just fielding complaints and inquiries, most of which the Mayor’s Office has no means to act on directly. Typically, my staff tries to answer simple questions and refer callers to the appropriate department. The calls include the following issues:

  • Building permits
  • Rent Board
  • Street sweeping
  • Street maintenance
  • RPD funding
  • Fireworks
  • City Council
  • Parks and landscaping
  • Tree trimming
  • Reimagine Public safety
  • CPRC
  • Sewage
  • Illegal dumping
  • Gun violence
  • Electricity costs and outages
  • Vehicles on Greenway
  • Housing waitlist
  • Rosie the Riveter
  • Homelessness
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Traffic lights
  • Blight
  • Housing Authority
  • Noise
  • Chevron
  • Senior housing

My staff is becoming increasingly frustrated because the departments to which they refer people do not answer their phones (or they automatically switch callers to voice mail), do not return calls and do not follow up on inquiries and complaints. Then people call my staff a second or third time out of frustration that they cannot make contact with anyone who can deal with their problem. There are several reasons people call The Mayors Office (and also the mayor):

  • The Mayor’s Office is one of the few places in the City where phones are actually monitored by a live person pretty much all the time and where staff is actually responsive to callers.
  • Many people think the mayor runs the city, which is not the case. We have a manager-council form of government. The city manager runs the city. Most people have no idea who the city manager is or what she does. Until I pointed it out a couple of weeks ago, the City’s website didn’t even name the city manager or provide contact information.
  • There is no easily found resource on the city website that provides contact information for people seeking information or making a complaint. Many cities have a comprehensive website directory that lists all employees who interact with the public and their phone numbers and email addresses.

The City’s website is not a good place to find out who is in charge of various departments and functions. For example:

Figure 1 - The City website shows a photo of former Port Director Jim Matzorkis, who passed away nearly a year ago in 2020. Until I brought it to the city manager’s attention, the website  continued to list Matzorkis as port director.

From mayor’s staff:

“I’d like to also request that we receive some sort of communication on the processes and priorities that various departments are focusing on and how we should handle concerns that aren’t considered a priority.  We need assistance with how to handle those callers.  What are we supposed to tell constituents when we can’t get their issues resolved timely? Most folks complain about being ignored.” 

“There have been so many changes at city hall, I frequently do not know who to contact.  I didn’t know Mario retired, and didn’t know who took his place.  Not all department pages have been updated.  I didn’t even know Anil was no longer the HR Director, and had no idea who Marc Fox was. Even if we were in the office, I’m not sure I’d know about these changes.  There has been no correspondence from the city to staff.”  

“Sorry to keep harping but city staff need to update their pages.  Anil is still listed as the HR Director, Laura’s name and contact is not listed on her page, there’s no one listed on the landscaping and park maintenance page, so I didn’t even know who to contact.  Chris had to tell us.  I don’t know who has left and who has taken over certain roles, I have to call around and ask questions.  It’s exhausting and time consuming.  Citizens think it’s our fault or that you don’t care, when that’s not the case at all.  The city is not a functional place for staff let alone the community.” 

To confuse things even more, the city manager is proposing a major shakeup of city staff that includes abolishing or demoting the two deputy city manager positions created by Steve Falk before he left in 2020. It is Item I-9 on the October 5 City Council meeting Consent Calendar.

Graphical user interface, application    Description automatically generated
Figure 2 - Current Org Chart
Diagram    Description automatically generated
Figure 3 - Proposed Org Chart