PENDLETON — A city council discussion about revamping its goals included a relative rarity — a compliment about Hermiston.
At a recent Pendleton City Council workshop, Councilor Scott Fairley said he was a part of a workgroup of councilors who wanted to find a better way to identify and implement council goals.
Fairley said the committee studied council goals and their implementation strategies across the region and singled out two cities who made progress on their own goals especially well — John Day and Hermiston.
A small Grant County town that’s been hit hard by the decline in the timber industry, Fairley said John Day set a broad goal around population growth as a way to offset the increased costs of services.
According to Fairley, Nick Green, the John Day city manager, identified the city’s issues, drafted a growth plan, presented it to its city council for review and approval, and now dedicates most of his job toward implementing the plan.
Fairley said John Day has had some success with this strategy, garnering $4.5 million in grants over the past three years and recently meeting with 20 state and federal agencies to identify another $20 million in projects.
Hermiston took a different approach, Fairley said, by using the mayor to facilitate a meeting with department heads to identify where Hermiston’s issues are.
Those issues helped formulate goals, which Byron Smith, Hermiston city manager, regularly updates the council on.
The approach has yielded results, he said, as evidenced by the completion of the Eastern Oregon Trade and Events Center and its downtown plan in recent years.
Fairley said the council needed to consider both changing the content of its goals to include more timelines and deliverable outcomes, and the process it uses to implement them.
The workgroup suggested holding an annual meeting with key department heads to discuss a five-year outlook on the city’s challenges and opportunities.
The council would then use those discussions to form goals and direct the city manager to come up with an implementation strategy before the council decides whether to adopt them or not.
Fairley said another key part of the goals process would be to assign new or existing revenue to each goal.
“Ultimately, what matters is where you put your money,” he said.
Like the cities the workgroup considered exemplary, the city manager position would be evaluated on how well they were implementing the goals.
But Fairley said the pressure would still be on the council to fund those goals, or else they wouldn’t be able to properly evaluate the city manager on his or her ability to implement them.
After Fairley ended his presentation, some councilors said they want to make sure the public is as involved in the goals making process as they did the last time the council overhauled the process.
Shortly after he was elected in 2016, Mayor John Turner convened a committee to draft new goals for the city.
After the committee submitted a variety of options, Turner and other councilors took them to various community groups to figure out which ones rose to the top.
The council approved the top four goals — improving infrastructure, land development, housing and economic development — in 2017 and renewed them recently.
A January analysis of the goals showed that the council had a mixed bag of success, hitting many of its housing objectives while falling behind on infrastructure.
Councilor Becky Marks said she was concerned that the council would focus so much on goals under the new process that it could neglect sudden opportunities like the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range.
She also contrasted Pendleton with Hermiston and John Day, saying that Hermiston’s relatively flat topography allowed for a different type of development that wasn’t available to Pendleton while John Day was much smaller than Pendleton.
“I know, Scott, you and I have butted heads over John Day quite a little bit,” she said. “However, John Day has 1,600 people.
Fairley said Pendleton was different than John Day, but his point stood that John Day was successful in implementing its goals. He added that the new process would give the council the flexibility to change and tweak goals as circumstances change.
The workgroup had suggested integrating the new process into the city council’s rulebook, but City Manager Robb Corbett advised that the council also put it into the goals document if they decided to do it.