What you miss when you don’t have a real search

One of the things the citizens of Worcester miss when there’s no search or background check is whether any of the applicants for a position has made a political donation to those who would be hiring him.

(I say “him” because in Worcester “city manager” is a masculine noun.)

For example, let’s say you’ve got someone who is in the running for city manager, and he wrote out a $200 check to Joe Petty and a $200 check to Rick Rushton within a month of being spontaneously appointed to his current position.

That is, perhaps, something that a real search firm would have looked for or asked about, and a real City Council doing its due dilligence would have uncovered, and a Mayor and Councilor with any integrity should have disclosed without prompting.

That’s not to say there’s mutual backscratching going on here, but someone hasn’t done their homework.

You can take a gander for yourself on the OCPF website: Petty’s deposit report for 12/13/2013; Rushton’s deposit report of 11/1/2013

A short post on this city manager thing

I think folks have heard just about enough from me regarding the city manager search and selection, but — if you can — indulge me a few more thoughts.

According to friend-of-the-blog Al Southwick in last week’s column [$], Worcester went to a city manager form of government because “the old system of aldermen-council-mayor was regarded as too cumbersome and corrupt.”

This is not to say that our form of government is perfect; far from it.  But the intention was to provide us with a competent manager and the stability that comes with a relatively apolitical person trained in management.

If you think that’s what we got on Tuesday night, then this blog is not for you.

We are now moving to phase two of the master plan.

The first part was to install a city manager who could be trusted.  Preferably one who could keep the seat warm for 3-5 years and didn’t have any further ambitions.

Part two, of course, is a move to strong mayor.  This is, of course, why someone like a David Moore was decent (he’ll retire within the requisite timeframe) and why someone like Ed Augustus is also good (his track record indicates that he won’t want to keep this job longer than the timeframe).

This is not to say that there haven’t been hiccups.

Phil Palmieri, for one, seemed angry with the mayor in particular.  He has, of course, come off the worst in this sad little affair: an incompetent search firm, a bad job posting, lackluster candidates, passing over at least one better-qualified candidate, and a process that ended not when a vote was taken but when the mayor announced it had ended on the Jordan Levy show.  I anticipate more blowback from this, and that the mayor can no longer rely on Palmieri in the way he once had.

And, either way, the strong mayor camp wins!

Crappy process brought to you by the people who are driving the public (subtly and not-so-subtly) to the conclusion that Plan E is the problem?

Yeah, a strong mayor would definitely solve that!

There is a danger, I think, in excusing a lack of public input and a quick dismissal of a process because someone is exceptionally good.

As we saw on Tuesday night, Rick Rushton was able to excuse the move to scrap the process and extend Ed Augustus’ contract by recalling that there was no search when Mike O’Brien became city manager.

Let’s leave aside our opinions on Mike O’Brien for the moment.

When we start down the path of saying that the public’s opinion doesn’t matter, that items do not need to appear on the agenda, that process is nothing important, we can excuse any number of bad decisions and questionable choices.

I hesitate to think what sort of deals will be made that can be excused because “that’s how we did it with Ed Augustus, and look how great he turned out.”

The public has a right to know what’s being done in their name and with their money.  Plain and simple.

We cannot have government by announcements on Jordan Levy, by backroom deals, or — as Councilor Lukes said — by letter.

I detected a note of skepticism about a “machine” on the last 508.

I’m not saying we’ve got a competent machine — we’re not looking at Urquhart and Stamper here — but we get the machine we deserve, I suppose.

Peter Cohan of the Telegram finally seems to be getting the picture [$], and I suggest you read his column.

I saw Oscar Rodriguez being referred to as “a token” in social media, and I’d like to ask an honest question.

Let’s say you have a guy who has degrees from some of the top universities in the country and who has experience running some city operations in a major US City (Austin, TX).

That man is passed over for someone whose major qualifications are that he knows the right people and is originally from Worcester.  Or, at least, that’s what we hope, because no one saw his resume when he was originally hired nine months ago.

What is the proper name for that?

Worcester’s first PARK(ing) Day September 19!

Originally posted on WalkBike Worcester:

WalkBike Worcester is organizing the city’s first observance of PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. We’ll have 5 adjacent spots on Main Street near Theatre Cafe, which will host one of the spots. Come down and be part of the fun!2014 - PARK(ing) DAY Flyer

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CWW: Geller Jazz Nightclub at Clark Tonight!

information via Clark Arts:

Tonight from 8pm-10pm at Higgins University Center, The Grind

Rising star saxophonist, composer and bandleader Sharel Cassity is quickly Making waves on the New York and international jazz scenes with her sophisticated and soulful style of playing. She has two albums out and a third on the way as a leader, and has appeared at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Blue Note Jazz Club, the Iridium, the Newport Jazz Festival and Dizzys Club Coca Cola. Besides performing with her own band, Sharel is currently a sideman with some of the most renowned jazz artists today including Jimmy Heath, Nicholas Payton, Joe Chambers, Orrin Evans, the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, Darcy James Argue and Diva. So, join us for an evening of exciting jazz, sweetened with an ice cream sundae bar!

PERFORMANCE IS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF THE ESTATE OF SELMA B. GELLER.

Also in upcoming music –

Worcester Chamber Music Society will have its first Worcester concert of the season on Saturday, September 20 at 7:30 PM at the First Baptist Church. If you cannot afford the tickets, there are a limited number of passes available through the Friends of Worcester Public Library, with thanks to the generosity of the Keil family.

And for lovers of chamber music — there will be a concert on Friday, September 26, from 7:30 PM-9:00 PM at Clark’s Traina Center for the Arts, Razzo Hall. More info here.

I went to the City Council and all I got was this lousy resume

Tonight’s City Council meeting was epic.

When you watch these meetings from home, you miss out on so much of the flavor of a City Council meeting.  You have Jo Hart sitting cheek by jowl with some of the most powerful folks in the city; power brokers schmoozing in the hall; folks who just wanted to talk about one item and don’t really want to stick around for 2+ hours…and you just hope that somewhere in the upstairs gallery Mike Benedetti is present, listening to a five-minute-long rant where Gary Rosen yells at himself.

Tonight’s meeting had everything:

  • A Who’s Who of Worcester.  John Brissette, Barbara Haller, Mesfin Beshir, Q, Paul Giorgio, Bill Coleman, Sue Mailman, and Carl Gentile, who sat next to me in the front row
  • Rick Rushton talking about cleaning up spilled milk
  • Kate Toomey comparing Ed Augustus to a sausage
  • Phil Palmieri, making sense
  • Konnie Lukes, kicking butt and taking names
  • The police officer, who shut up everyone in the hallway so that Konnie could do the aforementioned kicking of butts
  • Tony Economou’s beard (!!!)
  • Gary Rosen, being Gary Rosen
  • The gentleman with the suitcase who periodically comes to City Council meetings to let everyone know that Gary Gemme has poisoned him hundreds of times
  • Jo Hart
  • Another gentleman who endorses a “No” vote in the Scottish referendum
  • A baby asleep in the upstairs gallery
  • A hurling team
  • Scott Ricker

Also, this:

When the Council took a recess, Ed Augustus handed me his resume. (There’s a link to it at the bottom of this page; if you prefer a so-so flat file, you can get it here.)

It was that kind of a night.

Anyway, it’s a bit unclear to me whether Ed Augustus giving me a resume means he’s applied to be city manager or my blog intern.   Either way, the resume has no address or phone number, so I can’t get a hold of him!

The upshot of the meeting is that the City Council is going to meet again on Thursday at 5:30pm to authorize the mayor to negotiate a contact extension with Ed Augustus.

At least, that’s what I think is going to happen, but your guess is as good as mine.  It took Konnie Lukes five minutes just to pry that out of Joe Petty.  He seemed unsure about what he was asking for, didn’t know whether it was going to require an executive session, and wasn’t following the rules of the Council in any event.  It’s unclear how long the contract extension would be for.

I’ll write a more serious summary later (probably tomorrow night) but this was, on the whole, a great night for Twitter coverage, especially from Chris Robarge, Lindsay Corcoran, Mike Benedetti, and the Master Tweeter, Steve Foskett.

BREAKING: City Council to do what they wanted to eight months ago

In a move that should surprise no one, the mayor is going to ask the City Council to extend Ed Augustus’s contract.

Konnie Lukes will, of course, hold this [$], because, while announcing agenda items via Jordan Levy and Facebook is certainly cutting-edge, it doesn’t pass the Open Meeting Law smell test.

Of course, the citizens of Worcester have just one question on their collective mind –

What’s his favorite song?