It is difficult to say that maintaining a positive and healthy relationship with the local population is of greater or lesser importance over maintaining strong financial health. Should city managers and directors have to select one over the other? In my opinion, you can choose both, even when you must focus on upcoming challenges with revenue. In my eyes, it is the responsibility of public officials to ensure their local government has financial strength; and is successful in providing and employing the necessary operations and services they promise their communities; whereas they maintain a positive and healthy relationship with the local population. By no means am I signifying this is an easy process; nor am I saying that these officials will appease each and every individual making up the local population. What I am getting at is City Managers, Town Councils, Directors, and more must always make an effort to have a healthy relationship with the community and always be transparent in their actions. When facing challenges such as revenue shortages, these public servants, such as City Managers and Finance Director’s, are forced to put the overall health of the organization ahead of whether or not the local public will be happy with the necessary implementations to address such issues.
The wise way to address this kind of issue which does not require a choice between the two is to involve, educate, and receive feedback from the public. Devise a plan internally of how to address an issue such as revenue shortage. Then take that plan and be transparent with the local population. Let them know what’s happening and what plan the organization has devised. Make them feel involved and provide clarity on why they may see increases in service fees or raised taxes. Welcome their feedback and see if they can generate any ideas. When you involve the public and make them feel heard they (1) feel valued and (2) are educated on the manner and feel like you are being transparent and straightforward.