BLOOMINGTON — Departing City Manager David Hales offered the City Council some "uncomfortable" words Saturday about members' need to work together and rebuild mutual trust and respect.
The City Council at Saturday's annual retreat reached consensus on what retreat facilitator Diane Crutcher called "embodying respectful behaviors" and on streamlining how economic development proposals and council agenda items are handled. They also narrowed their list of budget priorities.
With Tuesday being Hales' last day before departing to become Joliet's city manager, he said he was in a unique position "to say some things that may be uncomfortable to you."
"There is too much of a lack of unity (on the council) and praising each other," said Hales. "It has saddened me to see some of the differences have continued to erode that trust, confidence and respect in one another."
He urged Mayor Tari Renner and the city's nine aldermen to "learn the techniques to deal with criticism and conflict, to deal with trying to build consensus and be good team members."
"And if you can't, if it's to the point where it is making your life miserable, then you need to look at another way to serve," Hales added.
The meeting came less than two weeks after six aldermen released a letter Oct. 24 criticizing Renner for treating people with whom he disagrees in a way that "violates the shared values of the council" and "brings disgrace to our governing body."
After discussion, the council members agreed to hold each other accountable for creating a respectful environment and to discuss their differences individually rather than in public.
There also was agreement that economic development matters should be brought to the city manager and city economic development coordinator for preliminary vetting and that there should be support from a majority of the council before any item is placed on a meeting agenda.
The council is slated to discuss the agenda process further at its Nov. 13 meeting.
Crutcher, of the Center for Performance Development Inc., asked council members to select from the 160 programs across 15 city departments their top priorities for funding. City department heads previously designated 109 programs as high priority, including 84 that are mandated by federal or state laws, intergovernmental agreements or local ordinances.
The council narrowed the list to 73 that received a priority designation from one council member and 35 selected as a priority by two or more members.
Maintaining city parks received the most votes with seven, and Miller Park Zoo and Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts each received six.
Nine programs related to emergency police, fire and medical services and dispatching received five votes each. Water treatment received five votes.
The city staff this month will analyze 13 items the council suggested for pontential cost savings. Those included possibly getting rid of the city-owned Creativity Center and and golf courses, outsourcing city garbage services and sharing costs with communities that use the city's police firing range.
"We've taken a good first step," said Ward 2 Alderman Dave Sage about the retreat's outcome. "We are finally getting down to the level of detail to make better informed decisions about where the taxpayers' money is going to be spent.
"We cannot keep doing everything we've been doing, and I think people have reached the point where they are taxed out," he added.