Our Opinion: Leadership needed to reverse city’s downward spiral

The news from City Hall becomes progressively worse.

Roger Schwartze, who heads Jefferson City’s Public Works Department, has announced he will resign his post. His departure will leave director vacancies in three city agencies.

City officials have indicated none will be filled this fiscal year. In addition to public works, an interim fire chief has been named following the retirement of the longtime chief and no finance director has been named while restructuring is being considered.

Later Tuesday, the resignation of the city’s communications manager, Michelle Gleba, was announced.

In addition, some elected officials expressed “concerns” with the performance of City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus in the wake of a recent closed session.

Schwartze said his resignation was prompted by the recent disclosure that the city is suffering a budget shortfall of $1.68 million.

Addressing the shortfall was a topic during Monday night’s special City Council meeting.

The proposed solution includes: an early retirement program; cutting contributions for economic development services and community events; eliminating security screenings at council meetings; and cuts to each city department.

“It’s not a question of essential services,” Nickolaus said. “The question now is what are the most essential services.”

Those cuts come in the aftermath of Jefferson City’s contribution to secure airline flights at Columbia Regional Airport. The guarantee with the new carrier prompted the loss of two other airlines offering flights, largely because of the inequity and lack of communication by Columbia officials.

The cuts also come after the city granted salary increases to its employees.

As if those developments weren’t bad enough, the city also recently learned lodging tax revenues — the funding source for the city’s contributions to a conference center — weren’t meeting projections. The revelation came weeks before three conference center proposals were received.

And, despite the lip service about transparency in city government, a new media policy by the city creates more obstruction than access.

As things now stand, city residents will be receiving fewer services for their tax dollars, experienced personnel are leaving and no one in city government wants to accept responsibility for — or even explain — this woeful turn of events.

Jefferson City clearly needs bold leadership to arrest and reverse this downward spiral.

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