Survey Results: Comments about Staff and Council

June 27, 2006

In our recent survey, we asked a number of open-ended questions. This is the third in a series of posts analyzing the information we received.

There were both positive and negative comments about individual staff members and various Council members. We know you can’t please all of the people all of the time. However, the fact that our survey showed so much concern about the Town approval process should be a cause for alarm.

The general tenor of the negative comments was expressed in these two examples:

o “The staff know they have a monopoly over you, and you are forced to beg to get your project built. There is no spirit of cooperation or service, I don’t mind following all rules and codes, but the staff make the building process take to long. I think they intentionally delay projects.”

o “Except for a couple of nice people it’s mostly a negative experience when going into the town.”

Others expressed concern about disparity of treatment:

o “It sometimes seems that there is favoritism amongst those who are friends or known by council members, vs other more quiet/invisible members of the community.”

o “There appear to be numerous historical incidents where the town staff selectively or arbitrarily enforces planning rules to the benefit or detriment of certain individuals or families and adds unnecessary cost to residents’ building project.”

o “My eyes were really opened through a neighbor’s experience when I learned that it’s who you know that dictates how well your project gets through the process. It is not fair and equal. People who say they got through the process easily most likely either know Council members or staff. We have all heard the excuse that people have a hard time because their submittal is not correct, that is false. I have seen plans where NO information was required yet it flew through the process. There are different sets of rules for different people.”

The greatest number of comments was aimed at the engineering department. Many found that they are difficult to work with and, for example, “insisted on making stupid drainage changes that worked so poorly.” There were also complaints that decisions are reversed visit to visit.

Typical of the complaints against Planning Director Hope Sullivan were these:

o “I have never been through such a frustrating and unnecessarily prolonged process as trying to build a home in Woodside. I was never given a straight answer. I was told one thing by Hope Sullivan and she did the exact opposite. I will never do anything ever again in the Town of Woodside.”

o “I have yet to see Hope Sullivan approach an application without an adversarial attitude. One of the most important tasks of the Planning Director is to make decisions in gray areas that come up daily. I have never seen Hope Sullivan make a decision that was not the worst choice for the applicant.”

We can only hope that Susan George is taking these concerns seriously. It would be-hoove all at City Hall to remember that all COWs should be treated equally.

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