Commentary: City Staff, Is the System Broken?

On Monday after my article appeared on the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) situation involving a city staffer who gave false and misleading information to council about a 23 year city vendor, I received a call from a former city councilmember. That councilmember expressed both gratitude and frustration. It seems that during their tenure this was a frequent problem. The only difference back then is the no one bothered to report it. According to them, city staff would often give false information to council, sometimes it was intentionally so. Accurate information and alternative viewpoints were very difficult to obtain.

This problem is largest for those who are members of the minority faction. The majority often simply does not care how city staff operates as long as they get their agenda passed. Process goes by the wayside. At the same time, with a city manager driven system, the city council is almost and completely reliant on the advise and information provided by city staff. The council is not given their own staffers, as other systems of government including the County Supervisors provide. And while these employees are completely at-will and can be hired and fired with no cause given (as opposed to civil servants who have immense protections), it is only those who control the three votes that really have such power to force the city manager’s hand.

It goes beyond simply a matter of city staff making mistakes. When we look at the water issue, one of the biggest problems is that city staff controls the flow of information to the city council. The water issue is a greatly complicated issue, as I discovered when I tried to wade through merely five years of public records on the subject.

A few things became evident from the public record. First, that city staff and not necessarily city council had vast control over the trajectory of policy. City council did pass by a 3-2 vote authorization to embark on alternative 5 in 2002. However, a stream of EIRs and MOUs led council eventually upon a very different path. City staff often had a larger role than council in guiding the trajectory of this policy.

Second, staff has been very reluctant, especially for the minority view, to provide them with alternative options. This was very clear last week when Mayor Sue Greenwald tried to push staff to provide her with answers to questions. Each time, the staff response was that we could not pursue this option. The Mayor wanted an answer to the substantive question, not an opinion on its feasibility. We should have an array of consultants that would give us different advice from the advice recommended by the staff and then the council can decide which is the best approach.

The problem of course in the case of water is that a councilmember simply lacks the expertise to understand the dynamics of the water supply and waste treatment plans. They have to rely not only on city staff, but also on consultants and lawyers to navigate through a very complex policy realm. Consultants and lawyers who are not always neutral bystanders and disinterested parties. That creates a situation where staff through their expertise serves as the gatekeeper of information and that situation puts a tremendous amount of power in the hands of an unelected city staff and removes a tremendous amount of power from the hands of people that the voters in this city elected.

Third as we have mentioned in past articles and commentary, this situation creates a perverse power structure where the City Manager is often deemed to be the chief power within the system. The City Manager not only holds the office space, controls city staff, and makes many if not most of the executive decisions that do not require council action, but the City Manager also has the power to structure debate and control the flow of information. While the City Manager answers to city council, in effect, the City Manager answers only to the strongest powers within city council, the council majority. In effect, as long as the City Manager does the bidding of the council majority, he is largely free to do as he chooses. This situation creates vast problems for council minorities who lack the power and leverage to have much say in the conduct and operations of city staff and the city manager.

More valuable even than numerical numbers is the flow of information. That flow of information is almost completely controlled by city staff working at the behest of the council majority. Without access to their own staff, the council minority not only has a numerical disadvantage, but they lack the ability and platform to be able to provide their own information to counter the message sent by the council majority.

At times, this puts the council minority at an even stronger disadvantage, because they do not even possess the information at times to counter what the council majority is doing. At other times, it has required members of the council minority to get independent assessments or do their own research. These are people who were elected by the same people who elected the council majority and people who are not being paid more than a token $500 stipend. This is not the way that these members of the Davis City Council ought to be treated.

It is clear to me that changes need to made in the structure of city government. As the complexity of governmental decisions increases, we need our council members whether they be in the majority or in the minority to be given a full array of options and alternatives so that they can make an informed decision. Unfortunately those needs are not being met by the current system.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Budget/Fiscal

80 comments

  1. I was speaking to a State legislature a few days ago concerning this very same problem about the pressures brought to bear by developer and real estate special interests in Davis with regard to the waste water treatment/water options. The response? ” It’s the same here in Sacramento They are about strategy, not policy. Strategy to maximize profits.” Councilman Heystek, leading the way, has taken the first step in taking on an interne, a move in the right direction to assist our councilmembers in their work on our behalf.

  2. I was speaking to a State legislature a few days ago concerning this very same problem about the pressures brought to bear by developer and real estate special interests in Davis with regard to the waste water treatment/water options. The response? ” It’s the same here in Sacramento They are about strategy, not policy. Strategy to maximize profits.” Councilman Heystek, leading the way, has taken the first step in taking on an interne, a move in the right direction to assist our councilmembers in their work on our behalf.

  3. I was speaking to a State legislature a few days ago concerning this very same problem about the pressures brought to bear by developer and real estate special interests in Davis with regard to the waste water treatment/water options. The response? ” It’s the same here in Sacramento They are about strategy, not policy. Strategy to maximize profits.” Councilman Heystek, leading the way, has taken the first step in taking on an interne, a move in the right direction to assist our councilmembers in their work on our behalf.

  4. I was speaking to a State legislature a few days ago concerning this very same problem about the pressures brought to bear by developer and real estate special interests in Davis with regard to the waste water treatment/water options. The response? ” It’s the same here in Sacramento They are about strategy, not policy. Strategy to maximize profits.” Councilman Heystek, leading the way, has taken the first step in taking on an interne, a move in the right direction to assist our councilmembers in their work on our behalf.

  5. The alternative usually is to go to a strong-mayor system, which would be unusual for a city the size of Davis.

    Council members could hire their own staff, which could get expensive.

    Or council members could do their homework, be persistent, be annoying, and keep after the staff for answers. They can continue to request reports outside of council meetings. The water issue has been out there for years, and as far as I can see you are the first who has looked at the reports in a detailed and systematic way.

  6. The alternative usually is to go to a strong-mayor system, which would be unusual for a city the size of Davis.

    Council members could hire their own staff, which could get expensive.

    Or council members could do their homework, be persistent, be annoying, and keep after the staff for answers. They can continue to request reports outside of council meetings. The water issue has been out there for years, and as far as I can see you are the first who has looked at the reports in a detailed and systematic way.

  7. The alternative usually is to go to a strong-mayor system, which would be unusual for a city the size of Davis.

    Council members could hire their own staff, which could get expensive.

    Or council members could do their homework, be persistent, be annoying, and keep after the staff for answers. They can continue to request reports outside of council meetings. The water issue has been out there for years, and as far as I can see you are the first who has looked at the reports in a detailed and systematic way.

  8. The alternative usually is to go to a strong-mayor system, which would be unusual for a city the size of Davis.

    Council members could hire their own staff, which could get expensive.

    Or council members could do their homework, be persistent, be annoying, and keep after the staff for answers. They can continue to request reports outside of council meetings. The water issue has been out there for years, and as far as I can see you are the first who has looked at the reports in a detailed and systematic way.

  9. Don:

    I agree, a strong mayor system would be unusual for a city the size of Davis. What I would like to examine would be some sort of a hybrid system where each member of the council would have a permanent office and their own individual staffer/ aid. I don’t know if that’s practical or not, but I think it would be worth looking at.

    The water issue is a concern because not only how expensive this is–we’re talking hundreds of millions which is huge for a city budget. But there is also the issue of expertise. As much as I looked into the issue, I still don’t feel I have a good grasp on it.

  10. Who hires and/or directs those city analysts? Yet another alternative is to fire that person and hire someone new. Really, if city staff are consistently giving wrong information, the person responsible should be replaced.

  11. Don:

    I agree, a strong mayor system would be unusual for a city the size of Davis. What I would like to examine would be some sort of a hybrid system where each member of the council would have a permanent office and their own individual staffer/ aid. I don’t know if that’s practical or not, but I think it would be worth looking at.

    The water issue is a concern because not only how expensive this is–we’re talking hundreds of millions which is huge for a city budget. But there is also the issue of expertise. As much as I looked into the issue, I still don’t feel I have a good grasp on it.

  12. Who hires and/or directs those city analysts? Yet another alternative is to fire that person and hire someone new. Really, if city staff are consistently giving wrong information, the person responsible should be replaced.

  13. Don:

    I agree, a strong mayor system would be unusual for a city the size of Davis. What I would like to examine would be some sort of a hybrid system where each member of the council would have a permanent office and their own individual staffer/ aid. I don’t know if that’s practical or not, but I think it would be worth looking at.

    The water issue is a concern because not only how expensive this is–we’re talking hundreds of millions which is huge for a city budget. But there is also the issue of expertise. As much as I looked into the issue, I still don’t feel I have a good grasp on it.

  14. Who hires and/or directs those city analysts? Yet another alternative is to fire that person and hire someone new. Really, if city staff are consistently giving wrong information, the person responsible should be replaced.

  15. Don:

    I agree, a strong mayor system would be unusual for a city the size of Davis. What I would like to examine would be some sort of a hybrid system where each member of the council would have a permanent office and their own individual staffer/ aid. I don’t know if that’s practical or not, but I think it would be worth looking at.

    The water issue is a concern because not only how expensive this is–we’re talking hundreds of millions which is huge for a city budget. But there is also the issue of expertise. As much as I looked into the issue, I still don’t feel I have a good grasp on it.

  16. Who hires and/or directs those city analysts? Yet another alternative is to fire that person and hire someone new. Really, if city staff are consistently giving wrong information, the person responsible should be replaced.

  17. The structure of government under the city manager model is that the city council hires the city manager who is an at-will employee. The city manager then does the rest of the hiring and firing.

    The council majority of course has considerable power in who gets hired and fired, the minority though is stuck. If the city manager operates to please the majority and ignores the minority and their viewpoints, there is not much they can do.

  18. The structure of government under the city manager model is that the city council hires the city manager who is an at-will employee. The city manager then does the rest of the hiring and firing.

    The council majority of course has considerable power in who gets hired and fired, the minority though is stuck. If the city manager operates to please the majority and ignores the minority and their viewpoints, there is not much they can do.

  19. The structure of government under the city manager model is that the city council hires the city manager who is an at-will employee. The city manager then does the rest of the hiring and firing.

    The council majority of course has considerable power in who gets hired and fired, the minority though is stuck. If the city manager operates to please the majority and ignores the minority and their viewpoints, there is not much they can do.

  20. The structure of government under the city manager model is that the city council hires the city manager who is an at-will employee. The city manager then does the rest of the hiring and firing.

    The council majority of course has considerable power in who gets hired and fired, the minority though is stuck. If the city manager operates to please the majority and ignores the minority and their viewpoints, there is not much they can do.

  21. This same legislator that I spoke with added that Davis is not unique with regard to the problem that we are discussing.. Small cities like ours throughout California are presented with the same growing complexity of issues, citizen elected officials with limited personal expertise and limited resources. This weakness promotes a political vacuum that is rapidly filled by those with a strategy rather than a policy. Extraordinary citizen diligence to vigiliant public scrutiny seems to be the best countermeasure, at least at present.. People’s Vanguard of Davis is leading the way.

  22. This same legislator that I spoke with added that Davis is not unique with regard to the problem that we are discussing.. Small cities like ours throughout California are presented with the same growing complexity of issues, citizen elected officials with limited personal expertise and limited resources. This weakness promotes a political vacuum that is rapidly filled by those with a strategy rather than a policy. Extraordinary citizen diligence to vigiliant public scrutiny seems to be the best countermeasure, at least at present.. People’s Vanguard of Davis is leading the way.

  23. This same legislator that I spoke with added that Davis is not unique with regard to the problem that we are discussing.. Small cities like ours throughout California are presented with the same growing complexity of issues, citizen elected officials with limited personal expertise and limited resources. This weakness promotes a political vacuum that is rapidly filled by those with a strategy rather than a policy. Extraordinary citizen diligence to vigiliant public scrutiny seems to be the best countermeasure, at least at present.. People’s Vanguard of Davis is leading the way.

  24. This same legislator that I spoke with added that Davis is not unique with regard to the problem that we are discussing.. Small cities like ours throughout California are presented with the same growing complexity of issues, citizen elected officials with limited personal expertise and limited resources. This weakness promotes a political vacuum that is rapidly filled by those with a strategy rather than a policy. Extraordinary citizen diligence to vigiliant public scrutiny seems to be the best countermeasure, at least at present.. People’s Vanguard of Davis is leading the way.

  25. “This problem is largest for those who are members of the minority faction.”

    David,

    Are you referring to the current minority faction, Heystek and Greenwald, or to any minority faction, regardless of its political bent?

    “… it is only those who control the three votes that really have such power to force the city manager’s hand.”

    That is true. That is the very nature of majority rule in any parliamentary body.

    “Second, staff has been very reluctant, especially for the minority view, to provide them with alternative options.”

    I think this is an overstatement. Maybe in specific cases where the city council has directed staff to focus in one particular direction, the staff has done that. Otherwise, without direction from the council, the staff would have no reason to exclude options that make sense.

    “While the City Manager answers to city council, in effect, the City Manager answers only to the strongest powers within city council, the council majority. In effect, as long as the City Manager does the bidding of the council majority, he is largely free to do as he chooses.”

    I’m not sure what is wrong with that. A city manager is a professional. What he chooses to do should be to lead the city employees effectively. If the council majority feels he is not doing that, the majority can get rid of him. If a minority faction feels that the city manager is ineffective, members of that minority can tell him so or address that publicly.

    “This situation creates vast problems for council minorities who lack the power and leverage to have much say in the conduct and operations of city staff and the city manager.”

    That is the very nature of being a minority. If they want to change the course of events, they need to win an election.

    “More valuable even than numerical numbers is the flow of information. That flow of information is almost completely controlled by city staff working at the behest of the council majority.”

    This is an overstatement. To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased. I don’t doubt that when the council, or a majority of the council, specifically directs them to pursue a particular course, that is the course they will follow. However, in most cases, members of the staff act professionally and do the best job they can to provide accurate information, regardless of whether the left or the center controls the council.

    “Without access to their own staff, the council minority not only has a numerical disadvantage, but they lack the ability and platform to be able to provide their own information to counter the message sent by the council majority.”

    They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television. They can write letters to the editor. They can go to the farmer’s market. They can comment on blogs. And because the staff is not, despite your assertions, biased against one faction or another, your claim that information is generally being withheld from them is wrong.

    I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar. But they agree because of their very strong biases, not because the city staff is as unprofessional as you suggest.

  26. “This problem is largest for those who are members of the minority faction.”

    David,

    Are you referring to the current minority faction, Heystek and Greenwald, or to any minority faction, regardless of its political bent?

    “… it is only those who control the three votes that really have such power to force the city manager’s hand.”

    That is true. That is the very nature of majority rule in any parliamentary body.

    “Second, staff has been very reluctant, especially for the minority view, to provide them with alternative options.”

    I think this is an overstatement. Maybe in specific cases where the city council has directed staff to focus in one particular direction, the staff has done that. Otherwise, without direction from the council, the staff would have no reason to exclude options that make sense.

    “While the City Manager answers to city council, in effect, the City Manager answers only to the strongest powers within city council, the council majority. In effect, as long as the City Manager does the bidding of the council majority, he is largely free to do as he chooses.”

    I’m not sure what is wrong with that. A city manager is a professional. What he chooses to do should be to lead the city employees effectively. If the council majority feels he is not doing that, the majority can get rid of him. If a minority faction feels that the city manager is ineffective, members of that minority can tell him so or address that publicly.

    “This situation creates vast problems for council minorities who lack the power and leverage to have much say in the conduct and operations of city staff and the city manager.”

    That is the very nature of being a minority. If they want to change the course of events, they need to win an election.

    “More valuable even than numerical numbers is the flow of information. That flow of information is almost completely controlled by city staff working at the behest of the council majority.”

    This is an overstatement. To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased. I don’t doubt that when the council, or a majority of the council, specifically directs them to pursue a particular course, that is the course they will follow. However, in most cases, members of the staff act professionally and do the best job they can to provide accurate information, regardless of whether the left or the center controls the council.

    “Without access to their own staff, the council minority not only has a numerical disadvantage, but they lack the ability and platform to be able to provide their own information to counter the message sent by the council majority.”

    They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television. They can write letters to the editor. They can go to the farmer’s market. They can comment on blogs. And because the staff is not, despite your assertions, biased against one faction or another, your claim that information is generally being withheld from them is wrong.

    I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar. But they agree because of their very strong biases, not because the city staff is as unprofessional as you suggest.

  27. “This problem is largest for those who are members of the minority faction.”

    David,

    Are you referring to the current minority faction, Heystek and Greenwald, or to any minority faction, regardless of its political bent?

    “… it is only those who control the three votes that really have such power to force the city manager’s hand.”

    That is true. That is the very nature of majority rule in any parliamentary body.

    “Second, staff has been very reluctant, especially for the minority view, to provide them with alternative options.”

    I think this is an overstatement. Maybe in specific cases where the city council has directed staff to focus in one particular direction, the staff has done that. Otherwise, without direction from the council, the staff would have no reason to exclude options that make sense.

    “While the City Manager answers to city council, in effect, the City Manager answers only to the strongest powers within city council, the council majority. In effect, as long as the City Manager does the bidding of the council majority, he is largely free to do as he chooses.”

    I’m not sure what is wrong with that. A city manager is a professional. What he chooses to do should be to lead the city employees effectively. If the council majority feels he is not doing that, the majority can get rid of him. If a minority faction feels that the city manager is ineffective, members of that minority can tell him so or address that publicly.

    “This situation creates vast problems for council minorities who lack the power and leverage to have much say in the conduct and operations of city staff and the city manager.”

    That is the very nature of being a minority. If they want to change the course of events, they need to win an election.

    “More valuable even than numerical numbers is the flow of information. That flow of information is almost completely controlled by city staff working at the behest of the council majority.”

    This is an overstatement. To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased. I don’t doubt that when the council, or a majority of the council, specifically directs them to pursue a particular course, that is the course they will follow. However, in most cases, members of the staff act professionally and do the best job they can to provide accurate information, regardless of whether the left or the center controls the council.

    “Without access to their own staff, the council minority not only has a numerical disadvantage, but they lack the ability and platform to be able to provide their own information to counter the message sent by the council majority.”

    They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television. They can write letters to the editor. They can go to the farmer’s market. They can comment on blogs. And because the staff is not, despite your assertions, biased against one faction or another, your claim that information is generally being withheld from them is wrong.

    I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar. But they agree because of their very strong biases, not because the city staff is as unprofessional as you suggest.

  28. “This problem is largest for those who are members of the minority faction.”

    David,

    Are you referring to the current minority faction, Heystek and Greenwald, or to any minority faction, regardless of its political bent?

    “… it is only those who control the three votes that really have such power to force the city manager’s hand.”

    That is true. That is the very nature of majority rule in any parliamentary body.

    “Second, staff has been very reluctant, especially for the minority view, to provide them with alternative options.”

    I think this is an overstatement. Maybe in specific cases where the city council has directed staff to focus in one particular direction, the staff has done that. Otherwise, without direction from the council, the staff would have no reason to exclude options that make sense.

    “While the City Manager answers to city council, in effect, the City Manager answers only to the strongest powers within city council, the council majority. In effect, as long as the City Manager does the bidding of the council majority, he is largely free to do as he chooses.”

    I’m not sure what is wrong with that. A city manager is a professional. What he chooses to do should be to lead the city employees effectively. If the council majority feels he is not doing that, the majority can get rid of him. If a minority faction feels that the city manager is ineffective, members of that minority can tell him so or address that publicly.

    “This situation creates vast problems for council minorities who lack the power and leverage to have much say in the conduct and operations of city staff and the city manager.”

    That is the very nature of being a minority. If they want to change the course of events, they need to win an election.

    “More valuable even than numerical numbers is the flow of information. That flow of information is almost completely controlled by city staff working at the behest of the council majority.”

    This is an overstatement. To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased. I don’t doubt that when the council, or a majority of the council, specifically directs them to pursue a particular course, that is the course they will follow. However, in most cases, members of the staff act professionally and do the best job they can to provide accurate information, regardless of whether the left or the center controls the council.

    “Without access to their own staff, the council minority not only has a numerical disadvantage, but they lack the ability and platform to be able to provide their own information to counter the message sent by the council majority.”

    They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television. They can write letters to the editor. They can go to the farmer’s market. They can comment on blogs. And because the staff is not, despite your assertions, biased against one faction or another, your claim that information is generally being withheld from them is wrong.

    I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar. But they agree because of their very strong biases, not because the city staff is as unprofessional as you suggest.

  29. Rich:

    I am not suggesting that this is a unique situation. My understanding is that this is not a new problem.

    I disagree with you–I believe that staff has been for quite some time very unwilling to provide alternative options on a large number of issues.

    “To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased.”

    I’d never put always up there. I would suggest however that I have not seen the staff recommend against the views of the majority.

    “They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television.”

    What they lack is the access to information that is prepared by staff that can be used to evaluate alternatives.

    “I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar.”

    I would not characterize it in these terms.

    Next council meeting, what the interaction between staff and council and see whose side staff is on. It’s a clear picture.

    Unprofessional?

    Other than the incident involving EAP I would not suggest unprofessional.

    How would I put it?

    Their recommendations have a good deal of confirmation bias. They come to a conclusion and they present their information along those lines. Water is but one example of this.

  30. Rich:

    I am not suggesting that this is a unique situation. My understanding is that this is not a new problem.

    I disagree with you–I believe that staff has been for quite some time very unwilling to provide alternative options on a large number of issues.

    “To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased.”

    I’d never put always up there. I would suggest however that I have not seen the staff recommend against the views of the majority.

    “They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television.”

    What they lack is the access to information that is prepared by staff that can be used to evaluate alternatives.

    “I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar.”

    I would not characterize it in these terms.

    Next council meeting, what the interaction between staff and council and see whose side staff is on. It’s a clear picture.

    Unprofessional?

    Other than the incident involving EAP I would not suggest unprofessional.

    How would I put it?

    Their recommendations have a good deal of confirmation bias. They come to a conclusion and they present their information along those lines. Water is but one example of this.

  31. Rich:

    I am not suggesting that this is a unique situation. My understanding is that this is not a new problem.

    I disagree with you–I believe that staff has been for quite some time very unwilling to provide alternative options on a large number of issues.

    “To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased.”

    I’d never put always up there. I would suggest however that I have not seen the staff recommend against the views of the majority.

    “They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television.”

    What they lack is the access to information that is prepared by staff that can be used to evaluate alternatives.

    “I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar.”

    I would not characterize it in these terms.

    Next council meeting, what the interaction between staff and council and see whose side staff is on. It’s a clear picture.

    Unprofessional?

    Other than the incident involving EAP I would not suggest unprofessional.

    How would I put it?

    Their recommendations have a good deal of confirmation bias. They come to a conclusion and they present their information along those lines. Water is but one example of this.

  32. Rich:

    I am not suggesting that this is a unique situation. My understanding is that this is not a new problem.

    I disagree with you–I believe that staff has been for quite some time very unwilling to provide alternative options on a large number of issues.

    “To say that the staff is solely working “at the behest of the council majority” suggests that the information they are providing is always biased.”

    I’d never put always up there. I would suggest however that I have not seen the staff recommend against the views of the majority.

    “They don’t lack the platform. They can speak out publicly every week in council chambers on cable television.”

    What they lack is the access to information that is prepared by staff that can be used to evaluate alternatives.

    “I’m sure that the vast majority of readers of this blog agree with you: that city staff is in a cabal against Sue and Lamar.”

    I would not characterize it in these terms.

    Next council meeting, what the interaction between staff and council and see whose side staff is on. It’s a clear picture.

    Unprofessional?

    Other than the incident involving EAP I would not suggest unprofessional.

    How would I put it?

    Their recommendations have a good deal of confirmation bias. They come to a conclusion and they present their information along those lines. Water is but one example of this.