As most of you know, there have been various controversies involving the city’s engineering department. This has led to the abrupt departure of the engineering department director and the restructuring of the engineering department. All I have to do is point to the San Jacinto debacle for you to get a clear understanding of how dysfunctional the city’s engineering department has been.
In addition to the San Jacinto Park and the Barron Park projects there have also been other related problems with engineering. These include Claudia Ordaz’ attempt to place herself on the MPO by politicizing the losses of Federal and State funds and the paving of streets in Larry Romero’s district that no one seems to be able to explain how it is that these streets bypassed the planned upgrades city council adopted a few years back.
The Freese and Nichols evaluation report points out many of the things that have been discussed among political junkies, engineering related firms and the news media. In essence, the blame has been placed on the engineering department’s door step. The evaluation report, dated October 19, 2015, explains the nexus to the problems as being the 2012 Quality of Life Projects.
According to the Freese and Nichols’ report, the city’s engineering department was used to delivering projects in the $20-50 million annual range. The 2012 Quality of Life projects increased the project deliverables dramatically due to the $218 million street improvement bonds and the $473 million Quality-of-Life projects in 2012.
The blame was placed squarely on the engineering department’s inability to cope with the increased workload. The survey goes on to layout a pro forma-based engineering structure that is the de jour best practices frameworks being peddled by today’s consultants.
What caught my eye in the report are the following statements:
“A culture of appeasement by key positions which jeopardized projects.”
“Lack of protocol for handling concerns from the public or City Council representatives.”
“Develop a culture of trust and respect.”
“Another root cause that became evident during the evaluation was the inconsistency and trust of the CIP (Capital Improvement Program) communications. Communication between CIP Management and the project level is broken in both directions. There is a lack of trust and confidence, and even a fear of communicating both positive and negative information.”
Those of you that are aware of the latest squabble between Cortney Niland and Lily Limon aren’t too terribly surprised by the statements.
However, they are a sad reflection upon the city council as a whole, and Oscar Leeser, whose job it is to ensure a professional working environment at city hall.
Although Leeser is not the instigator of the unprofessional squabbles played out in public, the fact remains that as the mayor, he has two primary responsibilities – be the ambassador for the city and ensure that city council meetings are as productive as possible. Remember, unless there is a tie, Leeser does not vote at city council meetings.
As far as I am concerned he, has failed on both counts.
Oscar Leeser has let the childish antics go on for far too long, all under the misguided attempt at keeping the “it’s all good” lie going. Pretending that city council is not dysfunctional will not “develop a culture of trust and respect.”
Because of his inability to take control of the city council meetings, the atmosphere at city hall is “a culture of appeasement” and the “fear of communicating” will continue unabated regardless of the thousands of dollars on surveys the city spends and the money it throws at public relations façades of “it’s all good” in El Paso.
Ultimately, the fault is Oscar Leesers because he continues to bury his head in the sand of “it’s all good” in El Paso.