Several patterns of local government are common in Pennsylvania. One is that the community’s elected officials are often the same people who are on the payroll of their municipal public works or police or administrative departments.
There’s nothing dishonest about that. But there’s a drawback: the perspectives of those officials tend to be fairly narrow and mired in detail. It’s hard to maintain a broad outlook on a community and its future when your day-to-day life is spent down in the weeds, dealing with its most tedious technical issues. Creating vision and community direction are a whole lot easier if there’s a bit of daylight between setting policy and digging trenches.
The other typical pattern is for decisions to be made on political rather than professional bases. So, for example, street repairs are prioritized by the political influence of the people who live there. Playground sites are chosen to earn the votes of specific constituents. And bus routes, where they exist at all, are established to serve the elderly relative of a powerful local resident.
Cranberry, I’m pleased to say, is not a typical community in either respect. Nobody on our Board of Supervisors is on the Township’s payroll. And maintenance decisions here are made by professional staff members consistent with policies established by that Board. In other words, Cranberry’s Board of Supervisors is able to look at the Township from a higher altitude and see the Big Picture.
As a result, our Board is often viewed as an anomaly in local government. They are not caught up in political squabbles over which streets to repave, or reviewing political registrations to determine who the Township hires, or kicking difficult financial decisions off to the next Board of Supervisors or the next generation of residents.
Instead, you will find them engaged in establishing standards about how the Township is to maintain its 120 miles of public roads, or how we are to maintain nearly a thousand miles of sanitary sewer, water and storm drain lines. Their direction is that we hire the best and brightest onto our staff, that we incorporate quality of life standards, that we apply sound financial principles to all aspects of our operation and, above all, that we provide the highest level of public service to our current residents and businesses.
What it means is that there’s no confusion in our organization on what’s important and where we’re headed. The Board made that abundantly clear through our 1995 comprehensive plan, and reiterated again it in detail through our 2009 Cranberry plan: it is to provide unequaled service to our residents and businesses.
Cranberry’s staff is accountable for ensuring that the Board’s goals are met, not only for current residents and businesses, but for future generations as well. It’s really that simple.