Could communication be key to city, county#039;s woes?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 30, 2005

Recently, in this space the bald-headed wonder (yours truly) had the audacity to suggest that our local governments should attempt to operate more like a business.

Who knew one sentence could inflame a gaggle of politicians?

At one point, during a meeting I was unable to attend, of those frustrated politicos replied, "We DO run the government like a business."

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Now maybe I'm just watching from the cheap seats, but I don't see it that way, even though I'll admit that in addition to being folicly challenged, yours truly also has poor eyesight (must be bad genes all around).

While some parts of the City of Ironton, for example, may operate efficiently and quite businesslike, the structure of the city seems to fly in the face of traditionally accepted practices of good business. The same can be said for the county, too, but for the sake of brevity, let's just stick to the city for a bit (sorry guys, if it seems like I'm picking on y'all, I am a resident and a voter, though, so I think I'm entitled).

Imagine, if you will, the city is like an industrial giant, General Motors, for example.

In that model, the mayor would be the chief executive officer of the business. As CEO, he's charged with daily operations.

In that same model, the city council would be the board of directors of General Motors.

While it's not critical the board and the CEO communicate and work together, most corporate folks would agree that things certainly function more smoothly when all sides share common goals.

In fact, I'd argue that without good, constant communication, little progress can result unless by sheer force.

Before I continue, perhaps I should further explain what I mean by "communication."

Communication occurs when one party is doing the talking and the other is listening, truly listening, not just waiting until it's their turn to speak.

In the city's case, the almost constant debate during the year 2004 and now continuing into this year surrounds the much-ballyhooed municipal fee.

But the board of directors and the CEO disagree on its merits.

If my failing memory serves me correctly, we've had at least half a dozen incarnations - $10 fee (several attempts), $3 fee, $10 fee with stipulations and the latest is a sliding scale fee that starts out high and slowly reduces through the course of a few years.

The pressure to "do something" continues to grow within the city, but I, for one, am still not sure what the "something" needs to be or whether or not the funds that will be generated from the fees will go to good use or not.

Many of the citizens who attend the council meetings are city workers - many of whom to add insult to injury don't live in the city in the first place. These folks, understandably, do not want anything to change, because it could affect their livelihoods more than others.

I'm not convinced either way and I suspect many others feel the same.

I truly believe that each and every one of the "players" in the city really wants what is best for the citizens. They just radically disagree on how to get there.

We have heard many people - not all of them city residents - speak up about what they think the city should do. Maybe the city should hear it from the residents.

Do residents want to pay a fee or would they rather sacrifice some of the services to which they have grown accustomed?

If you can make it to a council meeting, please do so, if not, give me a call, drop me a letter or send an e-mail and I'll try to share your opinions with the council and with your fellow citizens. Just let your voice be heard.

In the end, if asking if the city is truly being run like a business - with all that such a statement entails - is wrong, well, then I'm wrong, in addition to my other faults.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445, ext. 12 or by e-mail to