Erlanger considers integrating S.M.A.R.T. goals into community task forces

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Erlanger City Council will discuss revising the application requirements for its city task forces at council meetings next month following discussions that occurred at meetings in late April and May.

“What I would propose is that if the rest of council agreed with this, that we would revisit every task force that’s existing and fill this application out, and kind of reboot each task force,” said Council Member Tyson Hermes at the council meeting on May 16.

Erlanger currently has task forces for parks, city beautification, diversity and inclusion, budgeting and fire and emergency services, among others, focused on specific neighborhoods or projects.

“I think it’s important that we make sure that the tasks that we’re trying to achieve are for the benefit of, as the municipal order says, the staff, residents or taxpaying businesses of the city,” Hermes said at the same meeting.

Hermes said that unless clear goals were laid out for each task force, the groups could easily become aimless and expensive. When implemented poorly or inefficiently, he argued, they placed unnecessary strain on city resources and taxpayer dollars as meetings were required to be advertised, staffed and recorded. Minutes from the meetings also had to be produced and stored, which further strained city resources.

To that end, he recommended instituting a uniform application process where each task force had to establish a clear goal in order to be formed. He recommended the use of S.M.A.R.T. goals to ensure this occurred.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are a common practice in business management. Proponents of S.M.A.R.T. goals contend that they are an effective way of setting and reaching goals in a variety of situations. The acronym’s letters stand for the qualities of goals the model touts as good: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time frame bound.

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From left to right: Erlanger Council Member Tyson Hermes and Erlanger Mayor Jessica Fette at a parks task force meeting in May. Photo by Nathan Granger | LINK nky

This was not the first time that Hermes had brought up the idea in public discussion.

At the first meeting of the Erlanger diversity and inclusion task force in late April, Hermes expressed worry that the new task force didn’t have a clear goal beyond diversity itself.

“I think it’s a noble cause, potentially a great group,” Hermes said at the April task force meeting. “I just don’t know if it is an appropriate city task force.”

“What we’re trying to gear the task forces to is actually accomplishing a task,” Hermes added, “and, I mean, what you’ve got is huge.”

He recommended that the task force try to focus on specific pieces of legislation. The diversity task force took up the issue of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals at their meeting in May, according to the task force’s published agenda.

Back at the May council meeting, Hermes said that even some of the task forces he started had gone adrift.

“Toward the beginning of the year, I created a task force called Keeping an Eye on Kenton County,” Hermes said. “Now, you know, those meetings are really not public meetings. It’s just us attending [the county’s] meeting… We don’t really ever have a public notice. We don’t have meeting minutes… It made me realize the distinction between accomplishing a task for the city and just raising awareness.”

Council members broadly agreed that refining the task force application process, even if they didn’t end up using S.M.A.R.T. goals specifically, was a good idea.

Mayor Jessica Fette, who initially proposed the change from committees to task forces, gave her thoughts on the matter.

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“My original intent with making that change was to not just have committees that reported what departments were doing, but to have an actual, almost like a project team that was set out to accomplish a very particular goal,” Fette said.

“So there’s a task that we’re trying to accomplish and then once the task is accomplished, the task force sunsets just like any kind of project team,” Fette said.

To illustrate her point, she gave the example of the park’s task force.

“One of the main things that we do in that task force is prepare for the next fiscal year’s budget and what we’re going to propose and what parks we’re focusing on,” Fette said.

After some discussion, Hermes agreed to integrate the council members’ comments into the next draft of the task force application and ask the city clerk to include it in files for the next council meeting.

The next Erlanger City Council meeting will take place on June 6 at 7 p.m. at the Erlanger city building on Commonwealth Avenue.

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