From the Executive Summary of the City’s Operational Efficiency Assessment:

Ultimately the strategy and direction for the City are set at the top by the Council and key members of leadership through the articulation of a set of strategic parameters such as the mission, vision, values, and goals… The City of Belmont currently does not have any of this information established, nor is it routinely tracking much in the way of performance metrics.

2019 Operational Efficiency Assessment – Summary of Findings

When confronting a difficult decision (such as a controversial re-zoning petition, for example), it’s a good idea to ask what our end-goal is. As the above assessment indicates, we don’t currently know what that is. And we don’t have any way of measuring success. What are our goals as a city? Do we want more growth or less growth? Why? What does “growth” even mean? Does it mean population growth or economic growth or is there some other definition that we should consider? Without knowing the answers to basic questions like these, we will just wander from decision to decision without any clear sense of direction or purpose. As the Assessment notes, how do you know if hiring three new police officers/firemen/etc is appropriate if you don’t know why you’re hiring them?

This also means that we need to be able to track our performance against these clearly-defined goals. And that means that we need to do a better job of collecting even very basic data.  I have run into this myself just through my service on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. A few years ago, we were evaluating changes to the fee schedule for things like picnic shelter rentals, etc. Yet, we apparently don’t collect any data on how much any of those facilities are used and only very limited data on how much we are raising from these rentals. How can we make a decision about whether we need to raise or lower fees if we don’t even know how often the shelters are being used? That’s just a simple example, but it also applies to some of the larger problems the city is facing. How much have police and fire calls increased as the city has grown? How has attendance at our festivals changed as the city has grown? How many people can we expect to use the shiny new kiosks that we just spent $72,000 on? How many people are actually using them?

If we don’t know how to define and measure success, what are we even doing?

sad puppy

For everyone who has to commute to work everyday, we find ourselves leaving ever earlier in the morning just to get to work on time while getting home ever later in the evening. The very real cost of this increasingly soul-crushing commute – lost family time, lost productivity, and lost sanity – often isn’t fully appreciated by those signing off on the development of massive new apartment complexes.

While Council could do more to avoid making this problem worse (such as by adhering to existing zoning regulations), how do you think we can make this situation better? Something I have noticed trudging up and down Wilkinson Blvd every day is the relatively quick cycle times of the traffic lights (as in traffic barely starts moving before the light flips back to red again) and a lack of real synchronization between the traffic lights strung throughout the corridor. I have heard some people talk about installing traffic circles at some intersections – There’s obviously a cost to build them as well as a learning curve for drivers learning how to use them (since they aren’t very common in our area). Mass transit is another option – The light rail is allegedly on its way, but there is only one bus that runs between Belmont and Charlotte (and on a very limited schedule at that).

What are the chokepoints in your commute? What are some solutions you’d like to see? Would you ride a bus? Are you excited for (or maybe dreading) the arrival of the light rail? Let me know in the comments below!

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