What a week: Pleasanton’s new city manager makes his mark | News

Pleasanton City Manager Gerry Beaudin continues to put his stamp on city administration in his first year at the central office.

Last week, he received the unanimous support of the City Council, which no doubt moved carefully that night, to completely revamp the city’s longstanding process for identifying and prioritizing policy initiatives, programs and public projects.

Gone will be the council’s biennial work plan, a familiar system for the past 17 years under former city manager Nelson Fialho, in favor of developing a citywide Strategic Plan for the coming year that is more forward-looking and comprehensive. high level in their goals and objectives. implementation, probably in five-year increments.

“I would say that what we’re doing now is perhaps creating a bit of false hope for people who are passionate about those projects because we don’t link existing resources to an intended outcome as part of this process,” Beaudin said while responding. Councilman Jack Balch at the November 15 meeting.

I, like many, remember the previous planning process well: long lines, long lists, long nights.

The above process would occur every two years, aligned with the city’s two-year budget cycle, and would involve soliciting input from city department heads, commission and committee members, City Council, and residents and other stakeholders to create a catalog of new recommendations (combined with selected remaining projects).

That draft plan would be released before a final public meeting before the council that would often draw more than a hundred people in the audience to weigh in on which projects to prioritize, add or remove.

Items that often generated the biggest headlines were development-related projects, such as completing an East Pleasanton Specific Plan or responding to residents’ desire for a new amenity, such as pickleball courts or sand volleyball courts. illuminated. The meeting usually lasted well past midnight, with the council voting on each starting point.

The current work plan includes 78 individual items, prioritized as completion or major milestone for year one, year two, or as time permits. Of course, not all projects or policy initiatives are achieved within the allotted time frame.

Council members last week expressed wavering support for Beaudin’s proposed strategy, though most acknowledged that something needed to be changed in the earlier process: “too many projects” and “it had become an intense lobbying effect” were Council highlights.

Beaudin, who was involved in the two-year work plan process during his previous stint with the city as director of community development, said something about the old way that also caught my attention.

He described the process as “really a specific topic for groups of people who know how to connect with the city and connect with our process… It’s not a process that lends itself to an inclusive, participatory process of setting priorities in our community.”

Beaudin acknowledged that his goal was to “not slow down the process…a lot of really great things have happened because of the two-year work planning process over the years. Major achievements. Recycled water was once on the list; things like that”.

But in his opinion, a change is clearly needed to level expectations and transparency for the community within the financial and personnel realities of the city.

In his most direct presentation, Beaudin said that his new concept would focus on “helping us identify the things that are important to the community: a bigger picture, not just getting up on the podium and saying what your project is with a lot of people.” “. who support his project. The idea here is that we want to position ourselves better five to 10 years from now and to do that, we need to know what’s important to the community and we need to know how we’re going to do those things. .”

The City’s Strategic Plan is a top-down approach to priority planning. And it all starts with the creation of the guidance document, the first of its kind for Pleasanton.

(In the meantime, the existing council priorities workplan will remain in effect and staff will advance through the current list through the end of fiscal year 2023-24, creating a third year “gap” in the prioritization process.)

With the help of an as-yet-unidentified consultant, to the tune of $85,000 to $100,000, city officials will begin in 2023 to develop a new strategic planning process over the next nine months, including seeking feedback on the vision. senior level of residents, commissioners, council members and other key stakeholders.

“You’ll get a document that says: This is what the community values, this is how those values ​​translate into actionable items and projects, and this is what the city can realistically accomplish in that time frame. And then we’ll have some aspirational stuff as well, because that’s important,” Beaudin said.

The themes and objectives will try to capture the interests of the community for the present and the future, more in the range of five years, 10 years and 20 years instead of just two years.

Key questions during that prioritization process, according to Beaudin, will be angles like: Do we want to get a project done in five years instead of 10? Why is this project important for the community to support the values ​​and mission of the city? What specific benchmarks could be tracked to achieve the objectives?

“A lot of this is above water, if you think about the iceberg analogy, so these are high value-add projects, but they also add to the (day-to-day) work that goes on in the community,” Beaudin said. .

I commend Beaudin for trying to make his mark at the beginning in a showy way. I have to imagine that’s part of why he stood out to this council in the hiring process for city managers last winter, as a leader who would not just stand by managing the status quo, but would actually shape the city ​​administration in a positive way.

Change can be good, but it can also be unwieldy and pose a reputational risk if it goes wrong, especially in a place like Pleasanton, where many residents feel entrenched against certain kinds of change.

“I know a lot of people who really like our community the way it is,” Mayor Karla Brown said with a bit of a wry laugh during last week’s discussion.

I almost couldn’t have said it better myself.

Editor’s Note: Jeremy Walsh is the editorial director of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division. His column “What a Week” is published on the second and fourth Friday of the month.

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