The Provo City Municipal Council has begun a test run of an alternative model for its operation in the city’s government. The model is known as “policy governance” and was developed by the organizational psychologist John Carver. Basically, the model views the Municipal Council as similar to a board of directors who interact directly with two chief executive officers—the Mayor and the Council’s Executive Director. Thus the Council’s functions include reviewing, evaluating, authorizing, suggesting, and supporting the work of the two CEOs in their duties, much as in the past. Though the Executive Director serves at the Council’s discretion, the Mayor serves at the voters’.
Policy governance refers to the Council’s primary role in municipal government, which is the legislation of municipal policy. The model carves policy-making into four sectors. The first is Ends, that is, the short- and long-term consequences envisioned for each policy the Council adopts. In other words, Ends policy is guided by “Provo Future”—what complexion and personality the City will take on in terms of its growing populace, cityscape, infrastructure, economy, culture, environment, amenities, and community feeling.
Once the Council agrees to its Ends policies, it will turn to the other three sectors of the model. First is its own governance policy, that is, the policies by which it will conduct its own business. Next is its policy of delegation to the Mayor and her or his administration, and also to the Council’s Executive Director and her or his staff. Finally, there are the Council’s policies limiting the Mayor and the Executive Director in specific aspects of their work.
There are many sources of the Municipal Council’s policy making, including federal, state, and county statutes, the Provo City Municipal Code, the Provo City General Plan, Provo City Vision 2030, the Municipal Council Handbook, and Municipal Council legislative intent statements. Proposals from individual citizens of Provo and from citizen groups, as well as policies opted by other municipalities also are valuable sources of potential policy-making. Public forums and hearings, social-media correspondence, neighborhood meetings, and public media likewise enhance the Council’s cornucopia of potential policies.
By carefully adhering to a policy-making role, the Municipal Council will avoid a hands-on, over-the-shoulder posture in its relation to the Mayor and Executive Director. They will be entrusted to develop and deploy their full creative energies, in concert with their respective administrative staffs, in thoughtful, devoted service to the City’s well-being and vibrant, sustainable future. The Council will receive their reports regularly, inquire about project status and plans, reason jointly to solve problems, and offer its counsel and encouragement.
Aside from slight reconfiguring of the agendas for public meetings of the Municipal Council, there likely will be little outward evidence of its move to the policy-governance model in the near future.
However, over time, the virtues of the model may be expected to show themselves in the enhanced creative energies of the City’s employees, in emerging synergies among the City’s constituent entities— traditional and start-up, and in the City’s steadily-enlarging prominence as a peerless place to live, work, be educated, engage a wide array of cultural, culinary, and recreational assets, and raise a family.
Member, Provo City Municipal Council
10 November 2013