The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

January 11, 2014

HERALD'S OPINION: New council on track to handle city financial woes

The time has arrived.

Two months after Clinton voters restacked their City Council’s lineup by voting four new people into office, it is now time to see how that seven-member group sets goals, analyzes data and works together to reach a consensus as it makes decisions affecting this community.

During a strategic planning session Tuesday, we got our first chance to see the dynamics within the new council and what its members want to have happen in 2014. From what we saw, the council wants to work on the very same areas — the city’s financial position, communication, health of the city and organization/services — that candidates brought up when meeting with the Clinton Herald Editorial Board in late October just prior to the election.

We applaud the council for sticking to that agenda — especially in the area of finances. When asked for ideas Tuesday to maintain and improve the city’s financial position, council members ambitiously listed 13 strategies, including developing a five-year plan and implementing a $1 million cash reserve.

What does concern us is what also surfaced during that meeting: Some new councilmen believe making financial decisions could be difficult because they aren’t being provided enough financial information.

Two new councilmen — Ed O’Neill and Tom Determann — made it clear Tuesday they believe the city is behind on its financial reporting, saying they want up-to-date monthly statements.

Getting such information has been a problem plaguing the city for years, coming to light in 2010 as the city’s financial office was undergoing a change in leadership. At that time, former City Administrator Jeff Horne began overseeing that department and then he successfully hired Jessica Kinser to fill the position of city finance director. After Horne left, Kinser was promoted to interim city administrator and then city administrator, and also hired new Finance Director Anita Dalton — making this their first strategic planning session in their new roles.

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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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