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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Power Struggles, Insults, and Portsmouth City Council: Welcome, Mr. Allen

Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen says political instability has "always been." Allen says despite their appearance of professionalism and promise of a renewed commitment to work together, City Council has failed to develop a proper "Manager-City Council relationship." He decreed "things must change immediately."

In a five-page open letter to City Council, Allen lists the names of 17 city managers who served from 1930 through 1989 and how long their employment lasted, ranging from eight months to 8 years.
He said the city had a chance to reverse the course by relying on the training and experience of an unbiased outsider with a new perspective, but he's more and more frustrated with what has happened since he arrived in January, 2014.

Allen says, “From City Council involving themselves in day-to-day management issues, to initiating policy, submitting charter amendments and ordinances absent any input or involvement from the city manager to making public insults to individuals and agencies that the city manager must work with in harmony. The level of dysfunction within the city of Portsmouth is far greater than I could have ever imagined when I accepted the position of city manager.”

Allen believes City Council has continued to blur the line between the administrative and legislative branches of government by conducting committee meetings that develop initiatives and directives without a presence from the administrative side of government and that are often in direct contrast with the goals that Council gave him to accomplish.

City Manager Allen lists three problems that he says must be overcome if the city is to realize success:

* Council must remove themselves from the administrative branch of government and allow him to do his job.

* Council must come to an understanding of how the Council/Manager form of government operates and eliminate “the power struggle that appears to be happening.”

*Council must present a professional demeanor and not insult those sectors of the public with which he has to develop partnerships.

Well ...
Let's try to simplify all of this strategical posturing and relate the dire warning with just a few words. Gleaning for basics, we find the core becomes the following:

Ineffective Group Administration + Internal Power Struggle + Public Insults = Continuous Instability 

Brilliant. At least someone has the cojones to commit problems to paper. We all knew everything Allen stated, but we have never read it in print where it is now recorded for all to evaluate. Of course, the letter itself creates even more ...

Ineffective Group Administration + Internal Power Struggle + Public Insults = Continuous Instability 

But ...

Now, the launch has begun, and the doo-doo has left the rotating vanes to find targets of greatest promise. It is very tough to look like a working professional when you're besmirched with mess. So, a lot of ducking, bobbing, and weaving is inevitable behavior for those who wish to avoid the escalating storm.

In addition, there is a good chance so many digiti manus indexes will be pointed that SOMC better hire some extra orthopedists to relocate all the crooked hooks. "Bucks" will be passed and the wheel of blame is sure to spin around and around ... "where she stops nobody knows."

Don't be surprised to see more than a few members practicing the jive that has survived the ages. "We will all work together when everyone agrees with me" is time-tested Council stall along with tabling and indifference. Then, there is the famous Portsmouth "You can ask questions, but don't expect answers" ploy of Alfred E. Newmanesque concern.

And ... 

When all is said and done, poor Manager Allen will look back on submitting his letter and wonder why he did such a noble deed. Gee whiz, the nerve of this "unbiased outsider" to seek employment in a town committed to inaction and to bemoaning "how different it used to be" in the face of collapse. Of course, Council wants change but Allen thinks he was hired to supplant some new, possibly positive directions.

Oh, the horror! After six months on the job, Derek Allen is between a boulder and a compressed place. Will he become the reformer? Will he become the hired patsy? One thing is certain, City Council provides some great entertainment for the community. But take it from me, the meetings are well worth missing -- cut, dried, and ... did I say "boring"? It's much better to sit at home and read the tales of misfortune in the comfort of your own home.

In the immortal words of Rodney King, "Can we all get along?" Well, welcome to the city "where Southern hospitality begins." Back to the formula, friends. Let's see, how did that go? ...

Ineffective Group Administration + Internal Power Struggle + Public Insults = Continuous Instability 

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