When Considering City Policy, Learn From Good Contractors – Measure Twice, Cut Once

There’s an old adage among carpenters that you always measure twice and cut once.

This week’s tabling of a Climate Smart Communities pledge is the latest example of a city administration that too often cuts before it has even broken out its tape measure. The pile of mis-cut wood could build an ill-shaped cabin in the woods by now.

That isn’t to say the Climate Smart Communities pledge is a bad thing for the city to consider. The benefits may outweigh the costs. But the city doesn’t know that yet — and there was no reason for the matter to be on the agenda for Monday’s City Council voting session.

The biggest question is how the matter affects the BPU, as we noted Thursday. The fact it doesn’t appear either of the city’s corporation counsels weighed in on what the pledge may mean for the city is troubling. The fact the pledge wasn’t discussed publicly at a Board of Public Utilities meeting is also troubling. And, for a city that is holding public hearings throughout the city, a hearing to gather public opinion on the Climate Smart Communities pledge would have been a good idea.

“Those who read the newspaper today saw it and that’s when we got the phone calls and emails. I think the public felt like they didn’t have an opportunity to really get any words in on it,” Councilwoman Marie Carrubba said during Monday’s council meeting.

Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s term is entering its final year. And it’s not uncommon for new mayors to have on-the-job training in how they work with the City Council and handle issues as they come up. At issue here is constant rushing through issues hasn’t changed over the past three years. The number of times City Council members have said they need more information on a matter during committee meetings and council work sessions only to find that matter on the council’s voting agenda with those questions unanswered is too lengthy to list here. Here, though, are a few examples.

Sundquist’s first budget proposal included changes to retiree health care insurance that initially upset retirees and prompted a rewriting of the city budget when it became uncertain that the city could actually bank on the savings that were built into the budget. Sundquist was right about the change — it saved the city money and retirees have been happy once the change was properly explained. But the process was a bad one. Fast forward to the city’s initial efforts to put speed enforcement cameras in school zones. Despite questions, the city plowed ahead despite questions about its first provider — whose program in Buffalo was quickly ended by the Buffalo Common Council — only to see that provider never to deliver a product during its two-year contract with the city. A new plan has been proposed, but the council has yet to take action. It happened with American Rescue Plan Act funding over the past year, when the mayor and departments pushed to get programs up and running quickly, but recently the haste to move quickly ended up needing three tries to get enough funding for a popular senior citizen home improvement program. Twice parking rate increases have been included in the budget without once talking to business owners or City Council members.

You get the point.

For the rest of the year, repeat after us, measure twice. Cut once.


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