As a leader in our community and your neighborhood, I am seeking your assistance.
The City recently received two reports from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), a national professional organization commissioned to provide an independent, third-party, professional review of our police and fire departments. Recall, the Cities of Grand Rapids, Kentwood, and Wyoming jointly commissioned reports on each of our police and fire departments. Further ICMA is to provide a report concerning collaboration and consolidation opportunities between the three police departments and three fire departments. Thus far, Grand Rapids and Kentwood have received our reports for our police and fire departments; I understand that Wyoming’s will soon be delivered. I further understand that the two consolidation reports are scheduled for release next month. The third attachment is the news release that the City issued when the reports were released on August 28, 2012.
As a partner with the City, one closest to the ground or with the deepest roots in our neighborhood, I am requesting that you review the attached reports and share with me your thoughts.
Since we received these reports, I have tasked the Police and Fire Departments’ Transformation Teams—a labor/management team, to review these reports as a guide to their department’s transformation. The Police Chief and the Police Department Transformation Team and the Fire Chief and the Fire Department Transformation Team have been tasked with reviewing their report and presenting a comprehensive set of recommendations to me by November 1, 2012, giving them 90 days for their work. Following my review, we will present the transformation recommendations to the City Commission. They will begin a public dialogue which will feed into the City’s FY2014 budget process that concludes on June 30, 2013, with a new fiscal plan.
I believe that these reports can be viewed in a few different ways. Generally, the reports are complimentary of both the Police and Fire Department. The reports also are critical of a few of our operations. Some of ICMA’s recommendations seem bold, which can make them controversial. Remember we sought a thorough review through an outsider’s lens, with an eye toward using best management practices, seeking cost reductions, and maintaining our current outcomes. I directed the ICMA’s team of former police chiefs and fire chiefs to not make a recommendation that would cause us to fail to achieve our outcomes, but to provide a series of recommendations to lower our costs, relying on best practices. We need to know how skinny we could become and yet maintain our outcomes.
The outcomes by which we are generally measured are metrics like response time, response intensity, crime statistics, fire fatalities, property loss, and Fire Fighter and Police Officers injuries. I understand that our current state of outcomes may not be ideal, and of course given our human desire to always improve our outcomes, we must continue to aim higher. The ICMA reports affirmed that we are on the right track and generally we are obtaining strong outcomes.
Finally, recall that these reports are a series of recommendations, nothing more or less. I am pleased with these reports. I am not angered by bold recommendations, even ones with which I might not agree. I feel that the reports affirm the strengths of our Police and Fire Departments. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to shrink. Two-thirds of tax dollars are spent for police and fire services, and these expenditures are growing faster than our revenues. The City Commission understands that ideally, we would spend more, not less for important police and fire services. The City Commission also understands that services being squeezed out like parks, streets, and street lighting are also important services for our quality of life. Finally, the Commission understands the simple math, we must reduce our expenditures to live within our means.
I doubt that I will recommend every one of the recommendations to the City Commission. I suspect that I will additionally recommend items not within these reports. This is where I need the assistance from our Police and Fire Chiefs, from our Police and Fire Transformation Teams, from our network of neighborhood associations, and from businesses and citizens. I would appreciate your thoughts. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 456-4250.
Thank you for caring so deeply about our City and thank you for help.