As part of an international online roundtable that ICMA Managing Director of Europe Peter Agh helped to organize, several city managers from around the world recorded their perspectives on the challenges they face and how they are coping. We have consolidated these “selfie” videos on ICMA’s You Tube channel and will continue to update the series as more managers contribute content.
Peter Agh, managing director of ICMA Europe, reports on Slovakia where the national government transitioned smoothly—with masks on-—in the midst of the virus outbreak. He discussed measures taken there to significantly slow the spread of the virus, including suspending transit in and out of the country.
Sharon Landers, city manager of Carson, California, describes the impact on city full-time and part-time employees and how the city determines essential versus nonessential (but beloved) personnel.
Simon Farbrother, city manager of Spruce Grove, AB, Canada, former city manager of Edmonton, and past president of ICMA, talks about the difficulty of “getting it into people’s heads that social distancing is important.” He stressed that his staff have focused on good communication, clarity of purpose, and rational versus emotive decision-making.
Ib Ostergard Rasmussen, CFO/CIO, Faxe Municipality, video includes a section on how municipal staff, which have been sent home with full pay, are required to attend video meetings and be prepared to be trained to help with elder care as needed.
Simon Pascoe, executive director of ICMA affiliate UDiTE, the EU federation for Chief Executives in Local Government based in Brussels, Belgium, covers some of the specific economic measures that the EU has in place to support its member countries.
Marc Landry, city manager of Moncton, NB, Canada, and past president of the Canadian Association of City Managers, said that municipal staff are working remotely and following the lead of the provincial and national governments to avoid one-off decisions.
In South Africa, Jean Venter, CEO of the Institute for Local Government Management, an ICMA affiliate, said that the country went into a three-week countywide lock down on March 26. A long list of services was exempt from this lock down, including the food supply chain, medical services, security services, and municipal services, banking, and the stock exchanges. While people may leave their homes to buy food, access medical services, or to work in any of the exempt industries, the army will be helping regular police enforce the lockdown.
Fortunately, internet infrastructure is good, and a culture of mobile working has been in place for several years. However, medical services in South Africa are in general strained and governments are concerned that the pandemic may quickly overrun these services. The number of persons infected is now doubling every two days, similar to infection rates seen in Italy and Germany in the early stages of their infections with COVID-19.
ICMA’s Australian affiliate shared that it, like ICMA, is focused on sharing approaches and ideas during this period. To prevent the spread, the national government has banned all nonresident entry into the country, and like many countries, has enforced quarantines for international arrivals. In Australia, states make decisions on health mobilization and education and several states have declared health emergencies that allow increased powers for testing, treatment, and enforcement of quarantines. In addition, this also allows for economic packages for businesses.
Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG), a prospective ICMA affiliate, reports that its staff works mostly from home and have been focused on amendments of laws and regulations currently being made in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, commenting on and making suggestions in areas that affect local government work. LALRG, together with the Latvian Employers' Confederation, the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia urged the government to improve its crisis management model. In addition, LALRG offers videoconferences that have included the Minister of the Interior, the state police, the state fire and rescue service of Latvia, and the representative from Center for Disease Prevention and Control. They also have a resource center for members.
For additional information, visit ICMA’s Coronavirus Resource page.