Santa Fe Mayor's Transition Team Reports Need for New Tech, More Staff, Morale Boost

The findings were part of a 140-page report presented to city councilors and the mayor in a four-hour, lightly attended meeting at City Hall.

by Uriel J. Garcia, McClatchy News Service / June 4, 2014
Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales via Facebook

Just three months into his term, Mayor Javier Gonzales received sobering news from his transition team Tuesday.

City government is handicapped by outdated technology, low morale among employees and vacancies in key positions.

The findings were part of a 140-page report presented to city councilors and the mayor in a four-hour, lightly attended meeting at City Hall. All eight members of the council showed up, but halfway through, there were only three left. Those who left the meeting promised they would review the report.

The city managers said last week the report would be presented either Wednesday or Thursday. Asked why they chose Tuesday, primary election day, city spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter said, “Most politically astute people vote early. Voting only takes a few minutes, and we still do our work.

“We follow what’s important for the city,” she added. “The report was ready, and the scheduling worked out where we had availability.”

During the meeting, Gonzales said the people could read the report online and invited the public to bring up issues not addressed.

On April 3, Gonzales tapped about 40 volunteers from the community to serve on his transition team. Their job was to help him find ways to make the city government work more efficiently by examining each city department to determine if the people with the right skill sets are in the right positions, the mayor said in his announcement.

The team was split into committees that looked into nine different city departments, including the City Attorney’s Office, Public Works, Planning and Land Use, Finance, Public Utilities, Community Development, Community Services, Information Technology and the tourism and visitors bureau.

Each committee presented its findings, and six out of the nine made recommendations that called for filling key positions or hiring more staff. The report said some departments lack the technological resources to run efficiently.

For example, the report says the city needs to fill two key positions: city attorney and director of the Information Technology Department. The latter vacancy is hindering key planning efforts in other departments, such as Finance.

Most councilors said they were shocked by the findings, especially about low morale in the Land Use Department. The report recommends Land Use Department staff participate in leadership training and implement “a philosophy of appreciation, communication, responsibility and respect for other employees.” It also recommends hiring a full-time information technology employee to update the software and train staff on use of technology.

And because of weak communication and leadership within the city’s Information Technology Department, there has not been enough scrutiny of spending of federal grant money, which could threaten future grants, the report said.

Gonzales warned at the meeting that the city does not have enough revenue to implement all the recommendations.

“We have to align available revenues so that essential services are met,” he said. “And during the course of this year, I expect the council is going to have a series of conversations on what services potentially need to be eliminated.”

Councilor Signe Lindell summarized the recommendations when she told her colleagues: “The strategic plan is to find the money.”

Karen Heldmeyer, a former city councilor who attended the meeting, said the council had gotten warnings about the impact of the economic downturn in 2008, but the report suggests it did not sufficiently heed them.

©2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)