Barrentine Ignored City Employees’ Warnings, Left us Unprepared for Flood

 

The public has been justifiably upset by the Englewood’s response to the flooding in July. What could have been done to better prepare our city?

Simple: we could have hired a full time staff member for emergency management. In a community of our size, we need one, and the City Manager’s office has recognized the need for some time. On three occasions last spring (April 9, April 23 and May 14), the City Manager’s office recommended that Council approve a mid year budget adjustment to add an emergency manager immediately.

At the May 14 meeting (the third time around), the council received the following in a 6 page report:

  • Staff recommendation
  • Summary of previous council action on this subject
  • Summary of the need for the emergency manager
  • Information from comparable cities emergency management efforts (population, general fund size, Emergency Manager position title)
  • Sample Job Description (based on other cities and FEMA)
  • Financial Implications: how to fund this position in 2018

In order to move forward with the hire, Council needed to reach consensus. This would have been a little unusual: normally the city does not add new positions mid year, but the city manager’s office saw a major danger to the city, and wanted to keep our city safe. Addressing the need immediately (instead of waiting for the next budget cycle) required Council’s cooperation.

As the meeting plays out, it looks like consensus is possible. Wink and Martinez both see this as a critical need and want to move forward with hiring an Emergency Manager. Olson wants to make sure they’ve thought through any other possible hires they would need to add before the end of the year, but by the end of the meeting, she is satisfied that this is the right way to go. Russell is opposed; she thinks it is going to cost too much money. In hindsight, she was wrong about that, but at least she was clear and honest about her reasons.

Then we come to Barrentine. Instead of taking a clear position on it, she delays and filibusters. Take a few minutes and read through the 6 page report before you watch her response in the video below. Remember this is the safety of our city at stake and Barrentine says things like

  • We need to know exactly what it is we’re getting and why we’re doing it and flush (sic) it out a little better before we go spending money
  • There are some very real concerns about how we proceed with this
  • It is imperative that this council knows exactly what we give up for this position
  • we’re not only prioritizing and putting this in a priority slot in 2019, we’re changing the budget for 2018

You can hear the frustration in the assistant city managers voice at the ambiguous request for more information. Clearly the city manager’s office believes this is a major safety concern, but Barentine’s delays derailed the discussion and prevented the hire from coming to a vote.

Was there enough information available to make a decision?

  • Wink thought so: “Thank you for putting [this] together and for comparing with local cities… what the role is, just great information, I am one hundred percent for this.”
  • So did Olson: “I just want to clarify that I did not mean in any way whatsoever that I didn’t think that you gave us enough for the job description, there is more than enough here.”
  • Martinez agreed: “I think this giant list of required tasks and duties further helps me know how much we need it and it did come up in our strategy session, and for me, the trade off is: if we don’t fill this position and we have an emergency, we’re not prepared. And to me that is not worth it.”

As with construction of the new police station and schools Barrentine once again obstructs improvements necessary Englewood’s safety and prosperity, and gives no clear reason why. This is exactly why we cannot afford to wait any longer to remove Barrentine from office.

You can watch the video below for a summary of the meeting on May 14. The entire discussion in the study session is worth watching (here). (The relevant section of the video 3:31:20)

 

 

 

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