At Large

Bravo! Mayor Kuzmin

There's no passing the buck, er, ruble, in Megion, Russia.

By 9.19.07

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Listen up bureaucrats from coast to coast. Mayor Kuzmin is on a tear -- and it may be catching.

Despite President Vladimir Putin's steady centralization of power and decision-making in the Kremlin, he's not giving Alexander Kuzmin his marching orders. Kuzmin is strictly a self-starter. Elected mayor of Megion, a growing city 54,000 in Western Siberia, a year-and-a-half ago, he soon found himself in the midst of a problem..

Because Megion is in the Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous district where a large percentage of Russia's oil is produced, it is growing (and prospering) while most of Russia is losing population. This means housing is scarce in Megion. While the local government works to make more housing available, there are steady lines of applicants at city hall, asking for existing units. Too often, the new mayor found, they were being told "I don't know" or "I can't" by bureaucrats.

A petroleum engineer by training, the 33-year-old Kuzmin, who studied business administration in Canada, doesn't have those phrases in his vocabulary and doesn't think anybody else in city hall should, either. So, he decided to "shake things up," his spokeswoman told a wire service.

The young mayor posted a notice on the city's website that stated, among other things, "Town authorities are there to make town residents' lives comfortable and prosperous. Town officials must work out mechanisms to solve and remove problems, not to avoid them." He urged them to think before talking and, in any case, not use 26 phrases including these:

It's not my job.
It's impossible.
I'm having lunch.
There is no money.
I was away.
I was sick.
I was on vacation.
What am I supposed to do?
What can we do?
I'm not dealing with this.
The workday is over.
Somebody else has the documents.

The bottom line for disobedience? The mayor's ukase said that those who disobey the ban "will near the moment of their departure."

If mayors and city managers were to adopt this policy in the U.S., then try to fire employees who ignore it, a long process of hearings and appeals would follow, so they may have to call Mayor Kuzmin for advice on how to be persistent. One phrase they won't hear from him is, "It can't be done."

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”