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Posts for Council-Commission Advisor

Four Bad Habits to Avoid at Council Meetings

Four Bad Habits to Avoid at Council Meetings

February 9, 2018 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

There are a number of “urban myths” about Robert’s Rules of Order that can get in the way of democratic process for your council. If these errors happen at your meetings, address them and improve your processes. 

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Fiscal Feast or Famine: A Survival Guide

Fiscal Feast or Famine: A Survival Guide

June 27, 2017 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Council-Commission Advisor , Financial Management

What can local governments do to avoid the fiscal cliff? Advisor Stan Finkelstein argues that the best defense is to develop a multiyear forecast of anticipated resources and expenditures.

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Are You Communicating Your Goals?

Are You Communicating Your Goals?

February 10, 2017 by Bob Jean
Category: Governance , Council-Commission Advisor

Are you communicating your goals effectively? How do you cut through all the noise and clutter to reach the people you need to reach? This post gives you a Road Map to help. 

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Private Email Accounts but Public Records

Private Email Accounts but Public Records

January 5, 2017 by P. Stephen DiJulio and Philip Paine
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Open Government Advisor , Council-Commission Advisor , Public Records Act

This post looks at the recent Washington State Court of Appeals ruling that held the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution do not afford an individual privacy interest in public records contained in an elected official’s private email account.

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Avoiding the Pitfalls of the Next Economic Downturn

Avoiding the Pitfalls of the Next Economic Downturn

December 16, 2016 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Finance , Council-Commission Advisor

Are local governments destined to experience the problems they encountered between 2009 and 2012? How can elected officials respond in a fiscally prudent manner to an uncertain future? Advisor Stan Finkelstein suggests guidelines for local governments in order to avoid “falling over the cliff” during a rough economic cycle.

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The Dynamics of Public Sector Budgeting - Who is the Constituency?

The Dynamics of Public Sector Budgeting - Who is the Constituency?

June 15, 2016 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Council-Commission Advisor

As local government officials begin the process of developing their 2017 budgets, they face an environment of increased uncertainty: an uncertain economy, uncertain levels of inflation and wage demands, changing consumer behavior and revenue yields, and uncertainty regarding the demand for services. These are ongoing uncertainties that elected officials encounter annually when reviewing budgets...

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Time for a Change in Your Local Government Organization?

Time for a Change in Your Local Government Organization?

March 29, 2016 by Bob Jean
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Changes to the form or organization of a city presents both a leadership challenge and opportunity for the city council. Make sure to handle the transition properly.

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How Well Do You Walk this Meeting Tightrope?

How Well Do You Walk this Meeting Tightrope?

February 25, 2016 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Chairing a meeting requires two skills that are not easy to combine. The presider has to control the meeting, which requires strength. At the same time, he has to remain emotionally connected to the members, which requires warmth. Put too much strength into your voice, and you come across as cold and uncaring. Put too much warmth into your delivery, and you seem weak. Walking this tightrope tak...

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Municipal Management Model: Leading an Action Agenda

Municipal Management Model: Leading an Action Agenda

November 24, 2015 by Bob Jean
Category: Management , Council-Commission Advisor

Are you frustrated by the seemingly endless studies and discussion, yet no action? Have you ever heard, “How can government run like a business and get things done?” Well government is different and while it should run in a businesslike manner, we are not in business to make a profit. Cities don’t build things; we build community. So, how can we better put our plans into an Ac...

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A New Economic Development Strategy for Clallam County

A New Economic Development Strategy for Clallam County

September 11, 2015 by Jim McEntire
Category: Strategies and Programs , Council-Commission Advisor

Docks at Sekiu, courtesy of J. Stephen Conn.

Clallam County seems to be emerging (somewhat) from the dark woods of the Great Recession … but it is really a mixed picture. As our economic outlook has begun to brighten over the past year a big, and ongoing, conversa...

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Charting Your Future Part 2: Conducting a Strategic Planning Retreat

Charting Your Future Part 2: Conducting a Strategic Planning Retreat

May 12, 2015 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Management , Council-Commission Advisor

Stan Finkelstein continues his series on strategic planning by describing the role of retreats along with key strategies for conducting them effectively.

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Communication, Communication, Communication

Communication, Communication, Communication

April 2, 2015 by Bob Jean
Category: Management , Council-Commission Advisor

In real estate or economic development discussions we hear it’s all about location, location, location. When it comes to good governance, whether in Council-Manager or Mayor-Council-Administrator forms of local government, it’s all about communication, communication, communication.

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Not to Be Too Alarmist, but, Being a Realist …

Not to Be Too Alarmist, but, Being a Realist …

January 27, 2015 by Jim McEntire
Category: Revenues , Council-Commission Advisor

Aside from locally derived tax revenues, cities and counties with slow-to-no economic growth coupled with higher-than-state-average unemployment can expect scant additional financial help from the State and Federal budgets.

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When Public Comment is Challenging

December 19, 2014 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Public Participation , Council-Commission Advisor

This fall I had the privilege of working with planning directors from across the state at their 25th annual conference in Chelan, Washington. Our focus was on keeping things on track when folks are rude, crude or confused, particularly during public comment sessions. At the end of the day, I asked the participants to share the most valuable thing they had learned from our work together.

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Charting a Future Course for Your County or City

November 12, 2014 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Management , Council-Commission Advisor

The reality is that in this day and age the citizenry, for the most part, desires dynamic local governments. They abhor lethargy and they want to see positive change. They want their elected officials to position their jurisdictions to anticipate future needs. For the past 6 years most Washington counties and cities have been “treading water” ...

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Who's Your CEO - “Chief ENGAGEMENT Officer”?

October 12, 2014 by Bob Jean
Category: Public Participation , Council-Commission Advisor

Coming out of the “Great Recession” these past 4 years, what percentage of all money measures submitted to voters by local governments nationwide (cities, counties, schools, etc) do you think passed?  30%?  40%? More? Less?  According to research by the International City County Management Association (ICMA), from 2010-2013 over 70% of local money referendums were approved by voters! And those initiated by direct community engagement passed by 90%!

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Getting an Accurate and Complete Economic Picture for Rural Counties

August 1, 2014 by Jim McEntire
Category: Planning , Council-Commission Advisor

It can be challenging to assemble a comprehensive view of county economic conditions due to the many different sources of county-level economic data. I have the curse of a curious mind, from long before the beginning of my service in local government. First as a Port Commissioner, and then as a County Commissioner, I began a personal project to compile demographic and economic statistics for my...

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Strategic Fiscal Management - Avoiding the Next Fiscal Cliff: Do's and Don'ts

June 1, 2014 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Council-Commission Advisor

During the past five years, many counties and cities have struggled with shrinking resources, rising health care and energy costs and a citizenry clamoring for their governments to sustain and enhance services. The question often arises as to whether local officials could have initiated strategies prior to the start of the "great recession" that would have enabled them to better maintain revenues...

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The First Amendment Is Not the Last Word

April 1, 2014 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Appearance of Fairness , Council-Commission Advisor

In this country today, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the foundation of our civil liberty. The freedoms that it lists are crucial to our society. When we read accounts of how these freedoms, in other nations, can be abridged, limited or ignored, we react with horror. And yet it is also important to acknowledge that in the matter of free speech, the First Amendment is not...

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Leadership: An Inherent or an Acquired Skill?

March 1, 2014 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Leadership , Council-Commission Advisor

In the November 2013 issue of the Council/Commission Advisor, I acknowledged that the citizenry expects its elected officials to possess strong and effective leadership skills. I further described what I believe is leadership; its characteristics and the attributes of successful leaders. What I did not delve into is the age old issue...

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Musings on Local Government and Governance

February 1, 2014 by Jim McEntire
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

I've lived in many states and metropolitan areas throughout our country; some small, some large, some rural, some urban ... but nowhere with a system of local governance as fragmented as that of Washington State. Fragmented or integrated really doesn't matter in my view — neither is better or worse — local government remains closest to the people no matter what the structure. But...

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The Keys to Becoming a "Leader"

November 1, 2013 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Leadership , Council-Commission Advisor

In this era of declining approval ratings for national, state and local leaders, strong and effective leadership is one of those qualities that the citizenry is seeking from its elected officials. This article will explore the questions of what is leadership; what are the characteristics and attributes of leadership; how can elected officials become leaders and re-instill confidence in...

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My First Council/Commission Advisor Column

October 1, 2013 by Jim McEntire
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

This is my first column, so it will be largely biographical in nature, so you, dear readers, will have an idea of who is wielding the pen. I'm honored to be invited to have an ongoing conversation with all of us in local government, and I invite your thoughts in relation to mine, or in relation to whatever is vexing you and us as local officials (appointed and elected).

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Parting Thoughts from Carl Neu - Local Governments: The America that Works

July 1, 2013 by Carl H. Neu
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Earlier this year, I told Byron Katsuyama, Public Policy and Management Consultant, MRSC, I plan to retire by June 30. He asked if I would write a "parting thoughts" column as an MRSC Council/Commission Advisor. Answer: Yes.

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Infrastructure Financing - Future Strategies to Meet Capital Needs

June 1, 2013 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Finance , Council-Commission Advisor

While in recent weeks much attention has been directed at the collapse of the Skagit River Bridge on Interstate-5, that event is symptomatic of far greater infrastructure deficiencies confronting state and local governments.

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Take it Back, We've Changed Our Mind!

October 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

In our work with councils, special districts and other public bodies, we often encounter confusion about how a group can change an action that it has taken. For small groups like most councils, it's easy. Here is some information that will simplify the matter, based on Robert's Rules of Order, 11th edition ("Robert"). Bear with me if it seems a bit technical - we predict that understanding...

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Local Government: "If You Can Keep It."

July 1, 2012 by Carl H. Neu
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

In 1787, Benjamin Franklin responded to a person who asked what sort of government will our nation have, "A Republic, if you can keep it." Franklin's maxim envisioned a wholly new nation imbued with the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the wisdom embedded in the United States Constitution. RE: America Already is Europe, Arthur C. Brooks, Wall Street Journal, July...

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Why Do Our Meetings Take So Long?

March 1, 2012 by Carl H. Neu
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

Frequently, I hear the lament, "Why do our meetings last so long?" My experience and observations lead me to conclude, there are usually three main reasons.

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Should Our Council Adopt Robert's Rules of Order?

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

We believe that Robert's Rules still provides the best and most useful set of rules of order for civic bodies in our state - provided that folks are willing to do a little work and learn how to use Robert's Rules properly.

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Meeting Discussion: When Should You Interrupt a Speaker?

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

We see so many instances of rude behavior in public life today that it is not easy to keep our bearings about civility. Polite people who have been well brought up sometimes feel stymied when public discourse disintegrates. It might be helpful to review some circumstances in which people should be interrupted.

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Using the Round Robin Method for Efficient Council Meetings

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

The simplest way to make city council meetings more efficient is to use the round robin method of discussion. Sometimes, however, it's harder to employ this method than it seems. These are our tips for successful use of the round robin.

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How Much Should a Mayor Talk at Meetings?

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

One of the challenges that faces newly elected mayors is knowing how much they should speak at meetings. It can be a challenge to adapt to the requirements of running council meetings.

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Balancing the Council's Right to Manage Meetings With Expectations of Citizens

March 1, 2012 by P. Stephen DiJulio
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

Many city and county councils may be unsure about their ability to respond to disruptive conduct for fear of violating their citizens' First Amendment rights to free speech. A recent decision from the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals highlights and provides guidance on these issues.

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Who May Raise a Point of Order?

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

Over the years of working with parliamentary procedure I've found that there is a lot of confusion about the motion "point of order." In essence, when a person says "point of order" he is making a claim that there has been some procedural mistake. In his view, something has been done incorrectly, and it ought to be straightened out.

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Why the Government lawyer may not be the lawyer of the Council or Commission

March 1, 2012 by P. Stephen DiJulio
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

This column focuses on the need for communication among government clients and their lawyers and summarizes the foundations for what is generally understood as the "entity" approach to legal representation of municipal  corporations.

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"The Future Isn't a Gift. It is To Be Achieved."

March 1, 2012 by Carl H. Neu
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

This quote, allegedly from Robert Kennedy, really rings true today given the daunting challenges facing our nation's federal, state and local governments.

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Less Is More: Action Minutes Serve the City Best

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

If your council, commission or committee takes detailed minutes of your meetings, we recommend switching to action minutes. Action minutes record what is done at a meeting and not what is said.

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Unintended Consequences of Policy Perspectives and Decisions

March 1, 2012 by Carl H. Neu
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

As public officials, elected or appointed, all of us assume we are dedicated, well-intentioned and hard working. But the realities and pressures of governing, managing and politics can invite or pressure us into making decisions that produce consequences or results other than those we intended.

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Nuts and Bolts of Intergovernmental Associations

March 1, 2012 by Marc Greenough
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

The recession and voter-imposed restrictions on increases in taxation as well as the urbanization of formerly rural areas are leading local governments to pool resources in various forms of intergovernmental associations.

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Do We Have to Obey the Mayor?

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

After a dozen years in this business, it seems to me that questions of authority are some of the hardest to resolve. Over and over I find city councils, boards of directors, and other governing boards struggling with the question, "Who's in charge here, anyway?" If a group understands certain fundamental principles, it becomes much easier to resolve those tensions and move forward effectively.

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