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Sunday, July 31, 2011

City Manager Jay Cravens earns City $85,000 refund.

City Manager Jay Cravens
As reported in the Thursday's  Birmingham Bloomfield Eagle, by  C+G staff writer Erin McClary,  DTE refunds Bloomfield Hills for decade of incorrect billing. According to the Eagle the error was noticed during a meeting between City Manager Jay Cravens and DTE officials to to discuss energy efficient LED  lighting. A map was produced and  a sharp  eyed Cravens noticed that the  the city was billed for lighting  at a condominium project which should have been the responsibility of the private owners. As it so happened the  DTE had billed both the City and the condo complex.. More research revealed billing for streets beyond the city's boundaries.

Cravens at the last City commission meeting reported the refund triumph, alluded to an element of luck and mentioned the  $85,000 figure which sounded rather preposterous at the time. Chance however favors the well prepared mind and extensive research going back ten years justified  the $85,000 refund.

A Light in Winter
In the City of Bloomfield Hills the  City Manager  is the Chief Executive Officer of  the City. He is in charge of all departments such as the building department, public safety, department of public works, or office and/clerical.  A complete description of duties appears on the city's website.  The key phrase is The City Manager is appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of the elected City Commission.

Evaluating City Manager Cravens

Cravens,  hired as City Manager in 2007, annually under goes a public evaluation before City Commission. This year the annual review sort of meandered through two meetings an a work session. The first was reported here  in the post on the May 24th city commission meeting. Hiring and firing  involved some discussion. The commission and  the City Manager hire. The commission as the  ultimate authority  can fire but so can the City Manager. It was really all common sense. When in doubt talk to the commission.

No Such  Thing
Some of Mr. Cravens's head scratching may have come from the unique challenges, the unique City of Bloomfield Hills presents. At City Manager networking meetings Mr. Cravens  attended other city managers would tell him ,"  Just have your such and such department take care of it. Other cities have layers and departments that don't exist in our city. Jay would  have to explain  that the city of Bloomfield Hills had no such, such and such department.  "Really ? " was the universal reply. In an era when many municipalities prefer big and bulky, the City of Bloomfield Hills runs lean and mean.

Round 2
At the next commission meeting Mr. Cravens displayed a series of  carefully crafted color charts that indicated that most of the City employees had been hired by commission with only a handful actually hired by the City Manager.  The point being  how could the CM be expected to evaluate, supervise , and perhaps discipline people he hadn't hired. The commission hpwever held fast to the common sense conquers all approach.. "I really don't know where Jay is going with all these charts," City attorney Bill Hampton said looking at one that been passed in his direction

Round 3
The the next  session, a work session, where ideas rather than proposals are the emphasis, it was was Mayor Zambricki  who surprised with a big stack  of  handouts. outs. and a linguistic ability few knew he possessed. In fact to the uninitiated it almost appeared as though he was speaking in tongues.  In a blink of the eye the  English  we all speak (essentially the English  of day time television's panel discussions, Judge shows, and soap operas) was replaced with a  flawless fluency  in the argot of Corporate America. With it's fondness  of  measurements, Corporate America  has become domain of the frustrated tailor. The theory goes  you can't quantify what you can't measure and the Zambricki administration would be measuring. There would be goals and series of seemingly complicated evaluation forms for the City Manager and his departments.

Great at What ?
 At which point Commissioner Pat Hardy( a former Junior high school English  teacher and not a child of corporate America)  asked if all the forms and fuss was really really necessary "You Know (Mayor), if you had  suggested this (when  a couple of infamous city managers of lore threatened  havoc)I would have said "great" and "all for it"  but for Jay Cravens who we like..."  Then she asked Mr. Cravens if he really wanted to fill out forms. Jay said he'd be willing to give it a go. Mayor Zambricki replied to Commissioner's Hardy with, "Every company has someone who everyone says is a great  guy. Yes but great at what ? That's what were are going to measure."
We evaluate City Commission
the City Manager
While it is the City Commission's job to  evaluate our City Manager, it is our job as residents  to evaluate Mayor Zambricki's and the commission's handling of  the matter. Since no one else has stepped forward, I'll volunteer  and borrow the the royal "We".

We don't  know where Mayor Zambricki is going with all the  measuring and metrics . We would expect  that in his fifth term  as Mayor, Mr Zambricki  "knows" how to run the City,  and that knowledge trumps the need to constantly measure or evaluate. That being said we will concede  an apparent motivational value to such an approach. Mr Cravens is on a roll. In the metro area ,city managers salaries are generally in the low six figures. Mr. Cravens has certainly earned a very large part  of his salary  with the DTE refund. In addition the City will also enjoy cost savings  and the residents will realize added convenience with the SOCRRA  year round hazardous waste drop off program which Mr. Cravens initiated.

We would also like to commend  commissioners Hardy, McCready, and McClure for their input. Pat Hardy's comments provide contrast to the mayor's point of view and requires him to articulate in more detail. Commissioner  Mike McCready's  comments, especially on the subject of shared services, have  been right on. Commissioner Sara McClure is attuned to the wishes and needs of the residents and often says what the residents are thinking or should be thinking.

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