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Monday, February 06, 2006 | The request of Mayor Jerry Sanders that all of the city’s managers tender their resignation so he may decide who stays and who goes bodes ill for the city.
Calling for letters of resignation en masse has had the predictable corrosive effect on morale and many qualified people are undoubtedly looking for new jobs. San Diego will likely lose some good managers who rightly feel that they are being treated not as valuable assets, but as fungible commodities – each as good as the other. Why would any talented manager wish to remain in an environment where their worth is denigrated in this way?
This is not Washington, D.C., where everyone understands that with changes of political parties come changes in top-level positions. Are we now witnessing the beginning of an exit of talent from the city every time we have a new mayor with the negative effects on public policy development and implementation over the long term?
This is what is occurring in Sacramento where the revolving door imposed by term limits in the Legislature is undermining the development of sound public policy for the world’s fifth largest economy. As a result of term limits, those who were in office in 2000 will be out in 2006, giving rise to a new legislature that lacks memory of the evolution of our citizens’ needs and the history of the response to those needs through carefully crafted and thoughtful public policy.
We should strive to emulate the Japanese model of public governance where the best and the brightest are sought after and remain with one public organization to which they remain dedicated throughout their careers. It has made a huge positive difference for Japan. Care to guess which country negotiates the better trade deals over time? The United States, which changes negotiators with each change of national administration, or Japan, whose negotiators have known and negotiated with that American negotiator’s previous five to 10 predecessors and their subordinates?
There are long-term benefits to the public from having seasoned and highly motivated career managers working for them instead of those with a short-term mentality occasioned by regular changes of the leader of the organization.
Preserving institutional memory in our elected and appointed officials (and stability in policy development and implementation) is lost when we use a meat-clever approach to leadership change in reaction to public scandal, incompetence or wrongdoing by the few.
It has been said that a campaign political platform is something to run on, not stand on. In this instance, the mayor should shift his stance to that of the surgeon, not the butcher!
He should strive to foster an environment of appreciation, training and career renewal for our managers. To do otherwise is to invite frequent swings in public policy and erratic governance.
Dittbenner is a professor of law and a governmental-relations advisor at Southwestern College. Do you agree, disagree with him? Send a letter here.