9/16/2010

Gag Order

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and  The LUSJ reported that the Tucker-Chapman fued is moving on to another level:

On Mayor Michael Tucker’s orders, Common Council members are not allowed to approach city department heads about municipal or constituent business unless they’ve talked to him first.



Tucker abruptly informed the councilmen Wednesday during their pre-business meeting work session. A memo articulating Tucker’s policy regarding Council exchanges with the mayor’s subordinates will be out later this week, he said.


Looks like the long-simmering battle of wills between Tucker and Fourth Ward Alderman Andy Chapman just turned to a rolling boil.


Asked what’s prompting a formal City Hall communication policy, Tucker pointed a finger at Chapman. The freshman alderman’s “constant bugging” of department heads — and his apparent aim to “circumvent” mayoral authority over the departments — have to stop, he said....
There's middle ground somewhere. Will they find it?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I don't think Mr. Chapman is overstepping his bounds at all. I've met him before and find him to be a very reasonable man. He is just doing his job and trying to find out information so that he can make sound decisions to help better our city.

Our mayor is not used to council members doing these things on their own. We must remember that we elect council to represent us and to also make sure there is a balance in power.

I guess I now understand why so many people refer to our mayor as King Tucker.

Rocketboy said...
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Rocketboy said...
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Anonymous said...

The fact is that as taxpaying citizens, anyone of us can call a city department head and ask for information. I've done it many times over the years and have usually gotten helpful information and cooperation.

Mr Chapman was not "ordering people" around as you put it, but merely wanting to meet and find out certain aspects of the departments. The problem is that our mayor is perturbed by the fact that Mr. Chapman may learn something that he doesn't want him to know.

MJ said...

That may be a little overboard.

I agree with the point where I'd like access to the sources of knowledge in my quest for information if I were an alderman.

From the articles it appears that other council members also contact these subordinates from time to time (as referenced by Kibler's quote). It might just be the way Chapman is going about it.

Maybe it requires going through the Mayor first or at least reviewing what one would like to find out, request, etc. It can get frustrating when you are responsible for employees under your supervision and other personnel are giving them work without your knowledge or in this case possibly up to 6 other people giving them "orders". When the time comes for you to explain why your department is not getting things done it does make things more difficult.

We can also probably assume some good old-fashioned "getting on one's nerves". If Chapman was getting "blocked" by the Mayor, he could easily relate it at a council meetings etc as a "check of power". Or relate it to all of us using tools like this blog.

Without the courtesy of first informing/asking the mayor, it appears he is not just making it more difficult for himself to accomplish his goals, it is also affecting the other council member's abilities to.

The middle ground is there. Some limited free interaction is good to speed things up. Possibly having up to 6 additional chiefs giving what feels like "orders" can slow things down. Tucker and Chapman need to reset their working relationship to get to the balance point for the whole council's sake.

Alderman Jack Smith said...

Checks and balances. The truth is that as Aldermen we have a responsibility to those who elected us to be as familiar as possible with all departments and how they operate to make the best informed decisions. We also have a duty to speak on behalf of our constituents to various departments in order to request either information or address a concern. The Mayor has overstepped his bounds, we are elected officials who are responsible only to those who elected us, they are our bosses and not the Mayor. If anyone is interested in discussing this further in person, I will be having a Ward meeting on Thursday @ 6:30pm in the meeting room at the Library. The meeting is open to all citizens of Lockport.

Anonymous said...

I do think King Tuck oversteps his authority, especially the way he bosses dept heads around, but it is ridiculous to think that every councilman should be able to boss around dept heads. It just doesn't work to have that many bosses.
I am not sure what the city charter says about chain of command, but perhaps the answer to this question is in the charter. Exactly who do dept heads report to? I would think it would be the mayor since he is the one who hires them.
IMHO, alderman should be able to ask questions of heads but if the dept head has to spend any amount of time answering/researching the answer he should ask the mayor to prioritize the request. Also, if an alderman wants any issues addressed by a dept he could request it from the dept head, but once again all the requests should then go to the mayor for prioritizing.
like it or not, the Mayor is in charge!

Rocketboy said...
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Alderman Jack Smith said...

Rocketboy- If you are getting all your information from the papers when making your conclusions then you are sadly mis-informed. If you are getting your information from a source within City Hall, then you may want to try hearing both sides before you make your conclusions. The type of people that are a problem are the ones that draw erroneous conclusions based on partial or wrong information and some sort of blind allegiance. You should try and have a conversation with Alderman Chapman before you cast him as a trouble maker. There is more than meets the eye, or gets reported in City Hall.

Rocketboy said...
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MJ said...

When it comes down to it, it's people interacting with people so problems will most likely occur.

I can see Chapman's side of wanting to be a go getter and make things better. I can see Tucker's side of also wanting to make things better and accomplishing it by having control of his departments and what they are focused on doing.

Chapman may have started out on the wrong foot with the "Concert Series Probe". Luckily the promoter had some thicker skin than Santa and didn't pull an "I'm offened and taking my ball elsewhere" tactic.

I feel a council member needs to take up a limited number of valid causes and then pursue them to their completion. The small stuff can be relayed from constituents to the mayor to give to the department heads. Deeper financial items: bring in an outside auditor who knows what to look for. Otherwise lead us to growth.

If nothing else I would establish a theme of "opportunity". From my view point a lot of things work well in the city and it appears to be a stable vessel. There are the usual union issues and other problems facing all older urban areas but otherwise the city is not feel falling by any means.

What I would want from my council (and mayor) is to put there efforts toward creating a place of "oportunity". It can be:

1) The opportunity to invest in a home and get a return on it.
2) The opportunity to easily navigate the steps to start a business and then have a chance at success.
3) The opportunity to find jobs close by.
4) The opprtunity to feel safe and comfortable in our neighborhoods.
5) The opportunity to easily and safely get around by means other than a car (important for the poor, elderly, and children)

These can all be through progressive laws, taxes/assessments, zoning, enofrcements, incentives etc. Patching all the little holes is great put is probably better accomplished when left to the department heads. We need to establish and follow up on plans to grow. We need positive inertia building up to sustain our future. It's contageous once initiated.

I think I'll trademark Opportunity™ ;)

Anonymous said...

the Mayors effort to control every word, every action, everything, is a good reason to vote him out of office.

It would be a little easier to except if he had the intellectual creds' to go with his "know all, control all" style, but he don't!

The idea of a GAG order makes me gag.

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