Tuesday, August 28, 2007

As flies to wanton boys mayors...

I saw this over here earlier today on my RSS feed, although I had previously heard about it on NPR whilst in the shower. First the Trib:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said Monday he isn't worried about meeting a 90-day deadline to decide the futures of 11 city and authority directors whom he asked to submit letters of resignation by June 22.

Ravenstahl said he hasn't "formally accepted" the directors' resignation letters, but he has kept them in his desk. He said he expects to accept some of the letters after his staff completes a national search for potential replacements.

The mayor's comments conflict with a June 14 news release about the shakeup, which said the 11 directors had been "asked to serve the city in an acting capacity" while their job performances are evaluated.

Pittsburgh's Home Rule Charter requires the mayor to obtain City Council's approval for new directors or acting directors who serve longer than 90 days. The rule is one of the legislative checks City Council has on the mayor's office; however, the charter doesn't define a penalty for missing the 90-day deadline.

Of course, as The Burgher notes, (1) these jobs are up for the taking on the City's Website* and (2) he had asked for resignations back in June. In fact, we started running the Countdown Clock over here at ADB headquarters.

Now couple things:

First, it's not really important about the minutiae of whether or not Luke is going to appoint department directors and authority heads within the next 90 Days. Rather, it's the fact that he certainly seems to be taking his sweet ol' time about it.

Consider the following scenarios: You're a newly minted "Acting" Department Director. Do you (a) continue doing your job the way you always have, guns ablazin', (b) continue doing your job but devote more time to mayoral pet projects, (c) continue doing your job half-assed waiting for the axe, or (d) say "Fuck it" and high tail it out of there.

If you're former URA Executive Jerry Dettore, you've already picked "D".

Now, suppose that you're an employee under these newly minted "Acting" Directors. Do you (a) continue to do your loyal duty to the organization and your boss, (b) continue to do your duty, but to the mayor's pet projects, despite what the "Boss" might say, (c) continue doing your job half-assed, knowing that whoever the new guy is going to be is going to want to change it all around anyway, or (d) say "Fuck it" and high tail it out of there.

If you're most of the City Law Department, you've also picked "D".

So basically, your results are: (a) a mayor that shook up the box only to find that his Bureaucracy won't listen to him, (b) a mayor that shook up the box to create ephemeral change, (c) a decrease in productivity from his employees, or (d) a government with a lot of vacant positions to fill.

Or, (e) utter chaos, blood falling from the sky, 1000 years of darkness, dogs and cats living together... end of the world stuff.

Now, I'm no expert in management, but this whole experiment doesn't seem to be any one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I don't think "flailing wildly" would even clear the top 100, which would explain why they don't teach it at the Tepper School anymore.**

Moreover, what Luke is essentially doing is playing the same game I play with a string and my cats. I call it "Here's the string; no you can't have the string." When you play the game with cats and string, it's fun. When you play the game with employees and jobs & directives, it's not so much fun. To say "well, I asked for resignations and I posted your jobs, but I may not accept your resignations after all" is just cruel.

At least my cats usually get to catch the string.

Now, don't get me wrong: the Mayor can place whoever the hell he wants in whatever position he wants (with Council approval) to undertake whatever policy he wants. That's fine and no one is arguing that point.

The problem, however, is that right now he's just basically jerking people around...

Unless, of course, the whole point was just to eliminate Jerry Dettore and the Law Department.

*No Costas need apply.
**Maybe GSPIA

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