David's Blog

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Challenge City Council to Support Needed Reform

Mayor Ness is seeking to bring additional innovation and efficiency to City Hall. He is endeavoring to reform the City's ponderous and antiquated Civil Service System - a 1940's era employee management system.

The reform is overdue. The system is a relic from a bygone era wherein it was customary for the hiring of a city employee to take four or five months to process. Unfortunately, it still takes four or five months to hire a City employee. By the time the City of Duluth is ready to hire a job candidate, that candidate is often long since been hired by another employer who is unencumbered by such a grinding, glacial hiring process.

The system is advantageous for current city employees hoping to advance or relocate within the City's operations. It is a concurrent detriment to an administration seeking to bring new talent and energy to the City. Current employees are often positioned well to wait the many months the civil service system requires to process job placements. An outsider seeking to become a City of Duluth employee often is unwilling or unable to forgo other employment opportunities while waiting for what, ultimately, may be an opportunity within the City.

Current city employees have the inside track. They win. City unions win. However, tax payers and city administration lose. The potential infusion of additional talent into the City's staff is lost. A city administration that is being called upon to provide city services with fewer resources is hindered when it does not have access to talent from outside of the City's current talent pool.

This is where you and I enter this picture. Mayor Ness has labored for several months methodically moving this proposed reform initiative steadily through an exhaustive evaluation process involving the Civil Service Board, the City's union leadership, and the City Council. He has the reform initiative set for a Council vote. The vote will occur at the City Council Meeting scheduled for Monday, December 19, at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber of City Hall.

Those who seek to keep the Civil Service system unchanged will attend the meeting to oppose the reform. They will make their voice heard. They will call upon the city councilors they have supported, campaigned for, and helped win election, to oppose the reform. This may be another example of how the interests of a small number of passionate opponents can outweigh the broader interests of residents who want city government to operate more efficiently and effectively.

The vote will illustrate which councilors believe city government must continue to reform and adapt to changing times versus those who want to protect the status quo. I encourage you to pay attention to this vote. Ask city councilors to support Mayor Ness in his effort to modernize city government. Let the councilors know you will be watching this vote. You can contact them at council@duluthmn.gov.

The Chamber's leadership unequivocally supports Mayor Ness in his effort to bring this needed reform to City Hall. I hope you will join us in doing so.

In support,

David Ross, President & CEO

posted by David Ross at


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