A Portland City Auditor's report released today found that the $6.5 million Office of Neighborhood Involvement
, one of the city's most unique institutions, which is charged with...what, again?
That's just the problem.
ONI needs "clearer goals" and better performance measures, according to the report by Auditor Gary Blackmer's office.
The audit depicts a bureau that's picked up a hodgepodge of duties over the years and now lacks a direction-setting mission statement that covers its sundry responsibilities.
The upshot is, ONI needs to step back and have a Kevin-Spacey-in-American-Beauty
kind of moment, and reassess its existence.
Portland City Commissioners founded a precursor bureaucracy, the Office of Neighborhood Associations, back in 1974, to keep neighborhood groups involved in planning. Today, ONI's 37 full-time staffers field phone calls and emails from the public, tackle neighborhood nuisances, try to prevent crime (think neighborhood watch), organize graffiti cleanups, mediate local spats and run a gentrification "listening project
," among other things.
"Managers told us it is very difficult to identify overarching Bureau-wide goals that represent the specific work that is done in each program," the audit report says.
In place of Bureau-wide goals, ONI's website lists values like: embrace diversity, understanding, and mutual learning. While these values are essential elements of ONI's work, unlike goals, they do not provide sufficient direction for detailed organizational planning.
The report also found that the methods ONI uses to assess its own performance fell short:
An example is Crime Prevention's “Performance” task of “organizing Public Safety Action Committees.” This is commendable task, but it is a specific action that will be used to achieve a level of effectiveness, not something that can be used to judge effectiveness itself.
Which is a polite way of saying, setting up a committee is not an accomplishment
You can download the full auditor's report here
, if you want.
Or, you could watch this demonstration of a bureaucracy that knows exactly what it's doing