News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Goal-setting guides Sisters City Council work

How do things work at City Hall? What’s the role of the Sisters City Council as compared to the full-time City employees?

Every February, the City Council, made up of five citizens elected by Sisters residents, holds a goal-setting session in which they discuss their priorities for long-range goals as well as more immediate matters. Some are broad in their approach, dealing with big policy issues or planning for the future so when it arrives, the City is ready for what it brings. Other goals can be specific in scope and shorter range.

City department heads attend the Council goal setting to provide information and recommendations on some natural next steps in a process as well as things they have identified as necessary. They each have their own work plans for their departments, which they share with the Council and which inform the goals. The broader goals generally reflect the values of the Council regarding Sisters.

City departments in cooperation with volunteer committees/commissions have master plans that can project 15 to 20 years in the future, which aid in planning for capital improvements, replacement equipment, and other big-ticket expenses.

City Manager Cory Misley likens the City process to having a home budget, where some items recur monthly and other big purchases require saving money for future planned purchases or projects. Without a plan and goals, that money may never be there.

Misley explained that in everything the City does, they strive for transparency. With staff work plans and Council goals, they are able to appropriately budget for priorities, at the same time “baking in accountability.” Some goals are reached within one year; others may take longer. But, by having them on the list, talking about them helps manifest reality, according to Misley.

The work plans and Council goals intersect to determine the areas and issues the staff will be addressing in the coming fiscal year. In addition to the Council goals, the staff is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the City, making sure that all local, state, and federal regulations are met as well as keeping the City infrastructure running smoothly and planning for the future.

Information garnered from public engagement such as the public safety survey and the business survey, as well as citizen comments collected throughout the year, are taken into consideration as well. One example of considering citizen input was the addition in the livability and growth goals of reviewing and updating the City’s Dark Skies code, which is ongoing and could probably appear again in the 2022/23 goals if it isn’t completed before June 30, 2022.

At their December 8 workshop, halfway through fiscal year 2021/22, Council received an update on progress made on the current goals from City Manager Cory Misley. Much progress has been made.

Out of 10 specific goals under economic development, essential infrastructure, and good governance, eight are completed or expected to be completed. Two are underway and ongoing. The 10 goals under livability and growth, wildfire mitigation and community resilience, and environmental sustainability are all underway and ongoing. The Urban Renewal Agency goal of completing 100 percent of engineering and design for the Adams Avenue streetscape is expected to be completed by June 2022.

Only one goal in all seven areas is on hold or removed. Council hoped to explore creation of a wildfire resiliency program to retrofit eligible downtown commercial buildings using URA funds, a project that is not doable at this time.

When the Council goals and City work plans are determined next February, they will be clarified and integrated, ready to guide the City budgeting process completed by the volunteer Budget Committee next May.


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