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Sac Re-Starts City Mgmt Academy

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After a few years of budget-induced hiatus, the city’s Neighborhood Services Department (NSD) revived a noteworthy community program Wednesday night.

The City Management Academy (CMA) http://www.cityofsacramento.org/city-management-academy// is an annual 12-week series of classroom presentations designed to educate community organizers to better understand how our city government operates.  Wednesday evening's initial 3-hour session brought 30 eager, newly-appointed members of the "2011 CMA class" to their City Hall conference room home base, and the agenda and process for the next several months of presentations and city facility visits.

With substantial support from a core group of dedicated program alumni (more than 300 have “graduated” since the first class in 1995), and the ever-creative efforts of Vincene Jones and the NSD staff http://www.cityofsacramento.org/ns/ each week's agenda will offer the group access to top-level managers who'll explain & explore the current issues and challenges in various city departments, with the goal of facilitating better lines of communication between those citizens invested in community-issues solutions and the dedicated professionals working within the city administration tasked to do so in these economically challenging times. http://www.cityofsacramento.org/city-management-academy/what-is-it.cfm

Class members represent a mixture of Sacramento's engaged community leaderdship: neighborhood & homeowners association board members, non-profit agency staff, campaign ballot initiative organization leaders, and many others.  An enthusiastic vibe from the room certainly indicated a strong level of commitment to active participation in this unique opportunity with access to Sacramento government officials for discussion of the issues and challenges facing the city's future.

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CLASS #1:  After introductions and opening remarks, the group jumped right into its work with "Governnance Structure & Charter Officers".  Candid, engaging presentations by three of Sacramento's city charter department leaders, Interim City Manager Gus Vina, City Clerk Shirley Concolino and Matt Ruyak from the City Attorney’s Office, will hopefully set the tone for subsequent class presentations.

First up was the wry wit of our current Interim City Manager http://www.cityofsacramento.org/cityman/index.html.  In the city's recently somewhat of a roller-coaster "CEO" role, the timeliness of Gus Vina's presence was immediately understood by many in the class, since Tuesday's City Council meeting had just included the Council vote to fund a national candidate search process for a replacement for his job.  Amidst the Council's atmosphere of presumed (a 5 – 4 vote) "no-confidence", Vina nevertheless said he'd been clear over time how much he does want the permanent position, and is contemplating whether to submit his resume for the job, versus choosing to "pursue other options". 

Vina's good humor was evident as he transitioned into an excellent, mostly spin-free overview discussion of the basic structure and format of the city's governing bodies.  Having encouraged the room to be candid, direct, and to interrupt wth questions, he comfortably fielded several challenges to some specific info he'd offered.  More than a few times he described how much remains challenging in the coming budget cycles around balancing declining revenue while maintaining service levels vital to city residents, workers and businesses.

Never tedious or boring, several on-the-fly decisions kept Vina talking well past the scheduled time, with the class eager in agreement to delay a dinner break & continue the conversation w/ him.  Some might see Gus Vina as a huge asset Sacramento could be well wise to avoid losing… among them me.

Shirley Concolino has spent nearly a decade streamlining and updating many operations of the City Clerk's office http://www.cityofsacramento.org/clerk/, often finding creative (and occasionally revenue-generating!) methods to handle staffing cuts while maintaining vital components of the city government's day-to-day workings.  She rightfully boasted of various ongoing "green" changes which have substantially reduced the volumes of paper the city must generate in its legally-required documents and forms collection.  Our city is on-track for eventual "digital signature" technology which will further reduce waste, and greatly improve turn-around timelines in all sorts of departments and processes.  And many of the class were pleased to learn of the very efficient Passport service appointments the Clerk's Office offers, including photos, which are said to much less onerous than what's avalable at the US Post Office a block away!

The City Attorney's Office http://www.cityofsacramento.org/cityattorney// was represented by Matt Ruyak, currently Supervising Deputy City Attorney of the Transactional / Advisory Section, who did an excellent job of describing (to the nearly all non-lawyers in the class) the different aspects of counsel and advice the legal team (approx. 50) provides to a broad array of city government.  Several class members were interested in learning more about the CAO's Justice For Neighbors Program, a state-funded pilot project which helps citizens rid neighborhoods of problem properties (tenants and landlords, evictions and foreclosures) through newly streamlined regulations and procedures.

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This contributor will offer Sac Press readers a wrap-up from each of the upcoming 11 week’s classes, with information and perspective for citizens (like me!) who are interested in how civic involvement in local government is vital to sustaining quality of life here in Sacramento.

Please follow this storyline for Friday evening articles on each week's class. Announced class topics http://www.cityofsacramento.org/city-management-academy/curriculum-highlights.cfm include public safety, housing & redevelopment, parks & recreation, census redistricting, code & permit compliance, and more.  And we're scheduled to visit both the city's 311 Call Center http://www.cityofsacramento.org/generalservices/311/ & Public Safety Center as well.

COMING UP NEXT FRIDAY: Mayor Kevin Johnson and his team discuss various of his Sacramento's Vision & Initiatives including: Greenwise http://greenwisesacramento.org/, Steps Forward, STAND UP for Education, For Arts' Sake http://www.forartsake.org/.

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