City looks to improve performance measures

"POULSBO - Much like the How's my driving? bumper stickers that adorn vehicles around the nation, Poulsbo wants to find out How're we doing? City council met with several department heads Wednesday night to discuss whether or not Little Norway's government services were making the grade. In June 1999, Poulsbo adopted eight goals and implemented performance measures as a way to gauge whether the city is making any headway in hitting its own bull's eye. While there have certainly been huge steps toward improving the growth plan, encouraging economic development, efficiently using revenues and creating financial stability, supporting parks, providing basic services, providing professional customer service and enhancing education, council agreed that department heads should provide better progress reports to the elected body. We need a better response, councilwoman Jackie Aitchison said, noting that at present only planning and engineering were providing updated reports on a regular basis. I think it helps if you tell us where your goals and objectives are. Councilman Ed Stern proposed that the department heads create benchmarks to aim at as the year progresses. The idea of quarterly reports was well received by and large but the group agreed that the city should zero in on the overall steps being taken rather than the intricate fabric that often makes up specific goals. We should focus on performance measures as a tool, councilman Mike Regis said. We could analyze how to tie a shoelace but (the real question is) how are we running? Planning director Glenn Gross pointed out that often projects are postponed as additional workload lands on the plates of the department heads. As a result, he questioned how accurate the benchmark approach would be for the individual departments. I think we're dancing around the head of the same pin, councilwoman Connie Lord remarked, noting that the city wasn't looking to create busy work for its already burdened staff. The process, Lord said, would instead be aimed at helping Poulsbo take a more proactive stance on issues it needs to rectify. The idea is not to concentrate on a dot - we have to look at the whole picture. City finance director Donna Bjorkman suggested that department heads work on a more agreeable style of reporting their progress with a target date of June in mind. The delay would allow them sufficient time to prepare their proposals and would put all departments further along in the 2001 budget process as well. Poulsbo is already charting its successes in terms of the city's vision but how well such additions are actually working or whether they're working at all is what the council wants to find out later this year. Despite the questions, Mayor Donna Jean Bruce said she felt the relatively young performance measure program was at a minimum giving the city direction on where it should be heading in terms of serving the public. This is all pretty new, she remarked. But I think we're doing very well. "

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