Archive for Sunday, February 1, 2009

Marks for city leaders down

February 1, 2009


Survey results

A majority of all city employees surveyed disagreed with the following statements about the City Commission:

• Commission concerned about city workers.• Commission listens to what workers say.• Commission considers best interest of workers.• Commission understands working conditions.

The following scores (on a five-point scale) fell from 2005 to 2008:

• I know what city management expects of me — down from 3.4 to 3.0.• Comfortable questioning a manager’s decision — down from 2.9 to 2.4.• Satisfied with leadership of city management — down from 3.2 to 2.5.

Other findings:

• 60 percent of employees overall were either satisfied or very satisfied with employment at the city.• 67 percent were satisfied with leadership of their immediate supervisor.• 67 percent were satisfied with overall working environment.• 78 percent were satisfied with the service their department provided to residents.• 56 percent believed if an employee acted unethically, it probably would be detected and punished.

As the budget turns, morale churns at Lawrence City Hall.

A new survey of city employees found that city workers are becoming more disenchanted with the city’s upper management and with the City Commission.

City Commission received its lowest marks in the history of the survey, which is conducted about every three years. Of the seven questions asked about the City Commission, employees gave the commission low marks in all seven categories.

Thoughts on the city manager’s office weren’t much better. Of the four major questions asked about the city’s upper management, employees gave low marks in three categories. The fourth question was new to the survey in 2008.

“I am concerned about employee morale,” City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said. “The problem is, there aren’t any easy answers here.”

Survey’s timing

The survey was conducted in the fall shortly after the City Commission struggled with the 2009 budget. That budget session included tough wage negotiations with the police and fire departments, and battles over longevity payments to city employees.

Commissioners said the timing of the survey probably played a role in the generally negative results.

“We had to slow a lot of things down, but I don’t think that gives us a free pass on the survey results,” Chestnut said. “We need to try to address the concerns.”

On the City Commission front, employees were most concerned that commissioners don’t understand the working conditions of the city. The commission received a score of 2.1 out of a possible 5 in that category.

In terms of the city’s management, the satisfaction level that employees have with the leadership of city management dropped significantly from the last survey. In 2005, employees gave the leadership of city management a 3.2 out of 5. In 2008, the score dropped to 2.5.

“I think a lot of this is showing that there are some departments really stressed because we haven’t filled some open positions,” said City Commissioner Boog Highberger. “There are places that we just can’t cut labor anymore.”

Highberger said he thinks working on ways to improve employee morale should be one of the top priorities of city managers in 2009.

‘Tough times’

The survey marks the first since David Corliss has taken over as city manager. Corliss said he takes the survey results to heart and understands that employees are feeling high levels of uncertainty.

“We have to look for better ways to communicate with employees as we lead the community through some tough times,” Corliss said.

Mayor Mike Dever said he wants to work on employee relation issues, but he said he’s also keeping the results of the survey in perspective. Dever said the survey to some degree may “be a victim of timing.”

“If we asked these same questions now after they have seen what everybody else is going through with the economy, the results may be different,” Dever said.

Dever said despite the poor economy, he still found many of the results surprising. He said he thought the city manager’s office was a good advocate for employees during the last budget session, oftentimes lobbying city commissioners to include wage increases in the budget when some commissioners opposed doing so.

Dever also said he disagreed with several of the assessments the employees made regarding the City Commission.

“Their opinion is negative of management, and the City Commission is the ultimate when it comes to management, so I’m not surprised,” Dever said of the City Commission scores. “But I am disappointed in that evaluation.

“I’ve worked in a lot of different places, and I do feel like city employees are well-treated and have good working conditions.”


Richard Heckler 9 years ago

Citizen/taxpayer staff members have been asked to stay away and do not comment on agenda items they may have strong feelings for unless their presence has been requested. Their jobs would be on the line. This type of policy can only be generated from the very top of our governments and supported by department heads and supervisory staff. This is a morale booster? This is called communicating?Living in denial eh? Apparently there are too many disgruntled employees for this LJW report to be labeled not true.LJW polls, scientific or not, display the same feeling toward our city,county and USD 497 governing bodies. The other defacto governing body aka Chamber of Commerce cannot be left out of this picture.Lawsuits are another prime example of citizen dissatisfaction. City and county government creating last minute new codes or ordinances aka back door activity is unethical behavior.These bodies simply are operating without a great deal of citizen/taxpayer support. Their decisions thus far and for projects on the table will cost taxpayers money. Their attitude "you've gotta take risks" don't fly when spending taxpayer dollars. That's been going on for far too long. It is not fiscally responsible. It's too much like Reaganomics such that GW Bush practiced.Shutting down Prairie Park Nature Center will not address the city's problems. Too many taxpayer and volunteer resources have been wisely spent developing and supporting this educational gem.Super majoritiesCity Commission: Chestnut,Amyx,Hack,DeverCounty Commission: Was Bob Johnson & Jere McElheneyThe super majorities in both city and county commissions and USD 497 have to take responsibility for this situation according to voters. Existing governing bodies ignore the taxpaying citizens. Why do you think Lawrence growth is lagging? Lunch – How developers allow taxpayers to pay*School Maintenance building retail = unfriendly to business = economic displacement = not economic growthOver building residential = home property owner unfriendly = encourages depreciation. Tighter markets retain valuesOur city government has a fair amount of disgruntled citizen/taxpayers aka voters in their midst as well.

00766044 9 years ago

maybe the commision should look at the fact that the utility dept. is no longer an E O E. Positions are created and filled with employees who disagree with management. Usually for a pay cut. Its a regular thing and cuts the public out of a chance for a job

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

00766044--I'm having difficulty deciphering what you're talking about-- can you explain further?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

"Positions are created and filled with employees who disagree with management. Usually for a pay cut."This is the part that confuses me. Why would management create positions, and then fill them with people who disagree with them? And why would these people agree to a pay cut (from what?)

KU_cynic 9 years ago

To the LJW: This story could have been much improved with some graphics showing how responses to these 3-year surveys have evolved over time. Which areas show meaningful deterioration over a long time period? Which show what could be insignificant blips? I would also like to see survey results broken out for large-employment departments, especially public safety departments like police and fire. If cubicled staff workers are unhappy I am not so concerned. If police officers are unhappy I really worry about what the heck is going on at city hall.

Michael Capra 9 years ago

come on guys give boog a 10 all he has ever done was legalize pot good job give some to the employees boog the morale will go sky high

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

Thanks, cheeseburger-- the original post makes more sense now.

rusty2 9 years ago

how did Sue Hack score on 'leadership'?

rusty2 9 years ago

spring elections are coming, time to sweep awaythe 'yes men' for developers.the best ingredient for positive growth is new bloodthat doesn't just 'carry water' for the developers'.out of town developers don't come here because all that they see is City Hall caters to and subsidizes the local power elite while throwing the book at out of towners with tons of paperwork.when that changes we will get better developers than the lackluster so called leaders that we have.however, we must guard against the chesseoid big box guys like David Block & we need to keep our guard up but stop spoiling the local developers and make them do better projects.not just 'new urbanism' that Sue Hack rubber-stamped but really much better projects.

independent_rebel 9 years ago

Why wouldn't morale be low for city employees? From what has been reported they've had their longevity raises axed, their performance raises sliced as well. I believe some employees are paying double or triple for healh insurance and prescription costs. Why? The bean-counters on the commission care more about being voted back into office. Chestnutt, Hack, and to a lesser degree Dever, all privately told their backers they would get rid of the T bus system because with ridership less than 1 percent it was not feasilbe or logical to keep it going. They caved in to all the community whiners and put the sales tax to save the T on the same ballot as Obama, guaranteeing the sales tax would pass.The commision has decided in vote after vote, decision after decision, that the T, the out-of-town moochers disguised as the homeless population, roundabouts, decorating downtown, fighting lawsuits with developers because of their own poorly worded codes, etc., are more important to this town than the lives of the city employees.When Dave Corliss turned down the raise the city commission wanted to grant him a year or so ago, Sue Hack was asked on air by KLWN "what about raises for the regular city employees." She was on the radio saying she couldn't see how they could give regular employees a raise with the current economic situation. I attend at least one commission meeting each month. I am just waiting for them to make a decision that will affect my business, and want to be there to speak out on it when they do.Of course, when you also have a bean-counter CEO like Chestnut on the commission, you must realize that employees are not human, they are merely stats in a ledger. Push the line this way and you save money, push the line that way and poor Larry-the-criminal-from-Leavenworth can't get free lodging at the LCS anymore.Dever, everytime there is even a hint of hope that he would cut a social service, is almost brought to tears when those who support the services speak out at the commission meetings. Not tears of compassion. Tears of anger because he can't believe someone would confront him on his compassion. Then he caves in.Boog seems to care about employees more than any other commissioner, but of course not as much as raising taxes, art, the homeless, etc., but then again, there is nothing Boog is not compassionate about except anything west of Kasold.If I were an employee of the city, or K-Mart distribution, or Boston Financial, or Hallmark, I'd be worried as heck. This is sure a scary time to be employed in this town.

justsayno 9 years ago

I have the perfect solution for bringing the morale base back up for the city workers. Let all of the city employees go home after three or four hours of work but continue paying them their entire salary. It has worked for the city sanitation workers for over thirty years.Just check with your city manager and the city commisioners and you will find that they have no problem throwing away your hard earned money that you provide with taxes that you pay to keep their employees happy.For anyone who believes that this could surely not be happening while the rest of us are struggling to make ends meet just call or e-mail the city manager or city commisioners, as I did, and you will find that they have no problems whatsoever paying employees eight hours pay for as little as two hours of work sometimes.I hope that the biggest majority of people find this as disgusting as I do and call or write your city officials and insist that they discontinue this policy.

rusty2 9 years ago

logrithmic is onto something with his above post: logrithmic (Anonymous) says…The voters threw out the progressives and installed Hack as Mayor, along with cronies Dever and Chestnuts. Should it surprise anyone that these people are not well-liked by staff?therefore,employee morale could easily be very low when they sit & watch Sue Hack remain in office while they all know that they would have been fired for the same behaviouras her lies regarding Deciphera - she never did fess up!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years ago

Why does there need to be a survey to determine this?? I have official evidence of criminal misconduct in a city department that I made note of to all commissioners. I was roundly ignored. I assume this was at the direction of the real city boss, Mr. Core-less. It comes as no surprise to me that this commission/manager consortium is unpopular with city employees. It is even more unpopular with citizens. It would be interesting to take a poll of citizens regarding the opinion of these turkeys. Do you dare do it?? I doubt it.Yes, there is unrest in the slave house. With the clueless, gutless, spineless and disinterested group of commissioners, who roundly ignore criminal behavior in a city department, what other result would you expect? This whole governmental entity is as corrupt as some well-known foreign governments and there seems no way to stop this short of the ballot box. And the ballot box in Lawrence is reflective of how many yard signs are planted around the city. Is there anyone surprised at these results?????

free2bme 9 years ago

cheeseburger (Anonymous) says… If you're a senior department employee who disagrees with that jerk, you might find yourself being offered the new position of floor sweeper or ditch digger at a lower wage. Sadly, then, the employee has to decide whether to agree to that arrangement or quit and enter a very volatile job market. Wagner's got them by the jewels, and Corliss seems disinterested in correcting the situation.Cheesburger speaks the truth. There is little interest in the abuse of power in some departments, particularly Utilities. Corliss is hands off in that department and they sure as heck aren't going to be feeling the pain of layoffs.Dever was right in saying the results of the survey would be different if done today. I highly doubt it would paint such a rosy picture of life in City Hell. It is a bloated organization and the positions needing to be cut are not at the worker bee level. There are way too many Assistant Directors, Assistant to the Asssistant Directors, Management Analysts, Managers, etc. who are making very healthy salaries. Many are not necessary for the function of this city. Cut from the top first Mr. Corliss and leave those that actually work their rears off for this community alone. Maybe then the survey results will reveal a bit more trust in the City Manager's office.

rusty2 9 years ago

agree with you hawkperched.who to vote for.wish we had some better candidates. rec'd plug for Cromwell from BOOG in the mail yesterday - skeptical to say the least. Being on the Merc board is a nothing recommendation........and Boog recommends him withno real government entity experience --- sounds like putty in the hands of Corliss as you mention.we don't need silly putty commissioners we already have enough of that.

Sigmund 9 years ago

The voters want a smaller government and city employees are unhappy about that. OK, got a better gig lined up, then quit and take it. There would be a lot more money available if the City wasn't wasting several million dollars a year, every year, year after year, on the empTy. But we are so get used to it.So now that we are here and throwing a couple of million dollars at the 1% of Lawrence that ride the empTy we need to cut every department (except fire and police) equally 7%-10%. Give department heads the flexibility and and responsibility to manage to that number. Some departments may decide to freeze wages, reduce overhead, eliminate positions, cut expenses, find more efficient methods, or a combination of the above depending on their circumstances. Then hold those managers accountable for those decisions. This is how everyone else who doesn't work for the city or state lives, works, and earns a living and it is about time city employees understand how the other half lives. It is not the job of the City Commission and Manager to be loved by city employers but to do what is best for the citizens who pay their salaries and who they owe their jobs. BTW, I am waiting for the taxpayer survey. I am pretty sure I could cut IT software license expenses at the city by15% within a year without breaking a sweat.

BigPrune 9 years ago

Are the employees of City Hall p*ssed off at the hierarchy because the REAL people who control City Hall is the Planning Department, and the sitting commission does absolutely nothing to make changes so Lawrence stops dying? Lawrence is one of the most restrictive communities in the United States of America.One day, City Hall will open their eyes and actually wonder what went wrong. Obviously they are having a hard time opening their eyes since they can't figure out the REAL culprit for Lawrence's woes.

free2bme 9 years ago

Big Prune made a funny! Don't you think the Planning Department is being controlled by someone outside of that department? Think about why it's restrictive. Have you attended Planning or City Commission meetings? How many big projects get bounced by City or County Commissions? If Lawrence is dying it's because those managing the city aren't playing well with the commissions.

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