“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,” said then-President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957.
Or to put it another way, there is former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson: “Everybody’s got plans … until they get hit.”
Oneonta has a plan. It’s called the Oneonta City Charter, which has been in effect since Jan. 1, 2012.
A major aspect of this document was the institution of a city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the government, leaving the mayor and Common Council members to perform other functions.
On July 31, the Oneonta Charter Review Commission issued a report about how well the city was doing in adhering to the new order of things, and the results weren’t pretty. Mayor Dick Miller and the council, it said, were focusing too much on municipal administration and not enough on policy and long-term planning.
“The Common Council needs to take steps to ensure that the Charter is fully implemented and also provide appropriate oversight of ongoing compliance,” the Commission said.
Fair enough. However, like Messrs. Eisenhower and Tyson have pointed out, plans are worthwhile, but when they run up against reality, adjustments often need to be made on the fly.
Chairwoman Laurie Zimniewicz’s review of the Commission’s report included that the city manager must have “full authority” to manage.
There are a couple of problems with that, including whether the manager should have total authority to hire and fire anyone he or she desires, including —say — a department head or the fire chief without Common Council approval. Another problem is that since May 29, there has been no city manager.
That’s when Michael Long “retired” under pressure from the council after a short and not entirely successful tenure as the city’s first manager. The council is expected to announce Long’s successor Sept. 2. In the meantime, Miller and the council members have had to take up the slack along with Acting City Manager Meg Hungerford.
Which is not to say that the Charter Review Commission’s 14-page report and its 22 recommendations should be ignored. Quite the contrary. The Commission’s request for a formal education and orientation program on the Charter for the mayor, council members, department heads and other city employees is an excellent suggestion.
But we feel Miller has the right idea when he said the city should be looking ahead.
“The question for me is how do we process this going forward?” Miller said.
Rather than glean any nefarious motives about the adherence — or lack thereof — of the Charter’s precepts, observers should keep a steady gaze on what the city does to educate its employees and give the next city manager a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities.