Letter to Fort Collins City Council: Good Decisions Start with Good Data

February 22, 2022

Mayor Arndt and Members of Council:

Thank you for your dedicated service to our community.

With an ambitious agenda, it has been quite impressive to witness the speed at which this Council identifies and acts upon a wide range of issues.  As well, your commitment to engaging members of the community that had been marginalized in the past is highly commendable.  Much work remains ahead, though your leadership in this regard has established more inclusive dialogue that will serve us well into the future.

As you work toward addressing the balance of priorities included in your work plan from last summer, we strongly encourage you to maintain a commitment to being a data-driven organization.  Good decisions start with good data.  Good data, of course, doesn’t come easy.  It not only requires that information be screened for relevance, accuracy, and completeness, it must be challenged to test the limits of applicability and veracity.

Conclusions formed from good data must also be tested to identify unintended effects that may or may not produce a sufficiently beneficial outcome.

As citizen-legislators, you rely heavily upon the capacity and professionalism of staff across the organization to develop the data necessary to make good decisions.  To great measure, this mutual reliance has proven successful.  However, we are concerned the social and emotional strains coupled with the complete disruption of workday routines visited upon us by the pandemic have weakened the capacity of the organization to thoroughly vet action items within the time constraints established by your agenda.

This concern is manifested in two recent examples where complete and accurate information was not presented or presented with adequate time to assess unintended consequences.  On September 21, Council considered adoption of 1041 Powers.  Although work on this issue was initiated months earlier, it wasn’t until the occasion of First Reading when Council was first made aware of significant hardships the invocation of such powers would create across the region.  As presented by staff, it was apparent the preferred options were not adequately considered, though in the spirit of maintaining momentum, the powers were adopted, and staff directed to continue doing the work that should have been demanded prior to decision-making.

A similar situation occurred on February 15, as Council considered adoption of building code updates.  Local amendments that require electric vehicle charging facilities were supported by cost estimates that were wildly optimistic and based upon incomplete internal estimates.

Though the Chamber advocated against both measures until better data was available, our greater concern is the precedence these two issues represent.  Moving your agenda forward should not be taken to mean good data is less important than completing your workplan.  Moreover, these examples send a clear message that comprehensive analysis may be of interest but, ultimately, of minimal consequence.

Our city is very fortunate to be served by a dedicated, professional staff at all levels of the organization.  However, vacancies, interim assignments and the lingering effects of the pandemic have greatly challenged the capacity of the organization to live up to the high standards we have come to expect.  The added pressure of adhering to a decision-making timeline that does not account for currently diminished capacity exacerbates stress conditions.

The Chamber applauds your dedication to excellence and stands ready to support both Council and City staff in our mutual objective of creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community through the employment of good data.

Respectfully,

Ann Hutchison, President & CEO
Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce


Written by Ann Hutchison, President & CEO

February 22, 2022
For comments and questions about this blog, please email Ann at ahutchison@fcchamber.org.