CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council on Feb. 4 kicked off the first of three days to set its annual goals with discussions on council decorum, staff’s heavy workload and collateral damage from public disagreements between councilmembers.
While previous goal-setting meetings focused on projects, such as trenching railroad tracks in Carlsbad Village or building a new City Hall, the council’s four-hour meeting featured discussions about how the council can more effectively manage staff’s time and work together.
Additionally, City Manager Scott Chadwick reported staff members have been caught in the middle of the council’s disagreements, although he did not identify any particular members of the council.
“We don’t want staff to create a distraction for council and want to be as high functioning as possible,” Chadwick added. “I want to make sure staff can respond and we can be as professional as an organization as possible.”
Mayor Matt Hall noted some staff members are “scared” and the council must take those feelings seriously.
Hall also pushed for a discussion centering on the council’s decorum, respect for colleagues and public comments, noting the last two years have been challenging and councilmembers have not been truthful with each other.
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said she did not “consent” to Hall’s call for dialogue regarding decorum, but she would like to put forward an ethics ordinance.
As for the staff’s workload, a number of senior-level staffers reported in detail their day-to-day workload — many working six to seven days per week and 12 or more hours per day. Although much of the staff is fatigued, Chadwick said no one is complaining.
Chadwick’s report to the council also showed the additional workload due to the formation of several ad hoc committees. Over the past two years, Chadwick reported the council made 516 inquiries and passed 122 minute motions. Additionally, staff reported issues with the city’s IT infrastructure and issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Chadwick.
“Our prioritization of assignments is faltering,” Chadwick added. “Everyone is doing multiple jobs … and responding to the pandemic. Also, there has been an increase in engagement with the public.”
Another issue, Chadwick said, is upgrading the IT infrastructure. While not “sexy,” he said it is critical as the city uses several methods to access simple information or to something such as the Capital Improvement Projects. He said the city must upgrade its cybersecurity efforts, data retention and get systems to “talk” to each other.
“There are so many systems that don’t work together,” Chadwick explained. “Manual data entry and can be unreliable.”
The council and staff will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Feb. 11 and either finish the workshop or it will be continued one more week, according to Kristina Ray, the city’s communication director.