With the completion of the election runoff this week, it is appropriate to again congratulate all the winners, and to thank the councilpersons that will be moving on for their many years of service to our city.
Before our focus on city issues fades as our attention shifts to celebrating the holidays, we should take a moment to inform our new City Council of the issues we want them to address in the New Year. We have all re-learned from this past election how important it is for residents and businesses of Johns Creek to actively engage with our City Council if we want the best for our city. We cannot sit back and again let Council Members make decisions without our input now that they have been elected.
Following is a starting list of issues I would like to put forward for consideration, debate, and amplification by the community and council members as we plan for the New Year. I call it An Agenda for Action.
Review the succession plans for all Johns Creek management positions, and start the process for transitioning to a new City Manager. There must be a promotion path for city employees and the city cannot be dependent on the services of any one individual. The current City Manager has lost the support of many residents and businesses in the city and we need a new manager to take the city to the next level of performance.
Update the city code of conduct and ethics. The city manager affair and the mayoral investigation point out the need for the city to implement the highest standards possible to meet the expectations of city residents. Our elected leaders may be of the highest integrity, but we should not allow the least appearance of a possible impropriety. Also, we should not allow city contractors to contribute to the election campaigns of council members.
Increase outreach efforts by council members. Council members need to do much more than attend council meetings twice a month. How many times did I hear that residents and businesses never heard from council members again once the elections were over? Council members need to find ways to inform the community of the issues they are considering and actively solicit citizen input to augment their own views. These outreach efforts are essential for enhancing the transparency and responsiveness of our city government.
Revisit and complete the City Charter update effort. Last year the citizens of Johns Creek worked hard on a City Charter update effort, which came to naught in the state legislature this Spring. The city charter update effort needs to be revisited and completed to finally implement the needed improvements to our founding document. The revision to the city charter should include pay for performance principles requiring council members to attend meetings to receive their full pay.
Revisit the Capital Improvement Plan to validate priorities and cost-effectiveness. Why are traffic improvements at the intersection of Brumbelow and Nesbit Ferry roads not on the near-term work plan? Why is the city spending $283,000 on sidewalks along Morton Road that will be lightly used at best and are not on the Capital Improvement Plan? The Capital Improvement Plan needs to be revalidated with more input from the public and new council members.
Budget for infrastructure maintenance. As the city adds roads, buildings, park facilities, traffic systems, and so forth it needs to be budgeting for maintenance of these items. The need for road resurfacing and bridge maintenance is well known. We understand that eventually everything wears out and requires repair and renewal. The city should implement a realistic asset management plan that captures the maintenance costs to support our existing infrastructure and any improvements.
Increase funding for Parks. Our parks are challenged to meet the demand of city residents. Land for park use needs to be identified before it is all consumed for development. Of special interest is identifying locations for a city center that includes a significant park component. This should include starting a discussion with the community as to how to best use the $1.9 million annual increase in city revenues from the reallocation of the Local Option Sales Tax.
Promote the City Branding Effort. Johns Creek Advantage has been working diligently to identify the characteristics that make our city unique so as to promote our city to businesses and future residents, and therefore increase the vitality of our economy. We will need to work hard to promote the message once it is developed if we are to reap the rewards of the branding effort. I hope we can work with our schools and businesses to include some sort of technological edge in promoting our city and its quality of life.Improve the Quality and Completeness of Council Work Session Packets. To be effective and timely in interacting with City Council it is important to understand that the city holds what it calls Work Sessions in addition to the City Council meetings, and that much of the council discussion concerning city business occurs at the work sessions prior to the council meetings. The work session and council meeting packets with all of the information given by the city staff to the council members are available to the public on the city website. A review of the work session packets shows that even after seven years of operation as a city, the information provided by the city to council members in the packets can still be significantly improved as to completeness and quality to assure the best decision-making possible. The completeness and quality of these packets should be important to council members, but also to the public that is trying to learn about city issues and provide input based on these documents. Council members should re-evaluate their expectations for these documents and set higher standards of oversight for the benefit of the public as well as theirs.