Seats of power

At 10:30 this morning, Charlie Baker was meeting with the mayor of West Springfield at town hall.

An hour later, he was at Springfield City Hall to meet with the mayor of that city.

Come 1:15, he was in Worcester, meeting in a building that only reflects the image of our city hall, in a meeting led not by the mayor or the city manager, but by the head of the local chamber of commerce.

Some might find that odd.

But those would be folks who live in cities where the easternmost high school isn’t called “North High” and the westernmost high school named “South High.”

Worcester, as always, is the Uranus of the Commonwealth: off what should be a normal axis.

I suppose we should feel grateful that the mayor and city manager were invited to the meeting.

It’s unclear whether this means that we’ve dispensed with the pretense that either our elected officials or our city manager are running the city, or if Worcester is run by a Borg-like collective.

Which would make Ed Augustus Locutus.

PHIL-204

Item 10b on tomorrow’s City Council agenda:

Request City Manager provide interpretation and recommendations to the City Council concerning commercial wall murals and/or signs addressing the following questions: At what point is art considered a sign? Is a sign not a sign just because it is painted directly on a structure? Are there rules in place that address this or do we need to consider a new ordinance? Further, request City Manager include in this discussion the painting of portions of exteriors in bright or fluorescent colors as part of signage’s attraction. (Russell)

Sadly, I think I’ve taken this class before:

PHIL-204: Philosophy of Art, Esther Howland Chamber, Tuesdays at 7:30pm.
Professor Russell (no relation to Bertrand) will lead this seminar on aesthetics, or the philosophy of art.  Seminar will include readings from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hume, as well as the Worcester City Charter, Artworks in Our Parks, and Robert’s Rules.   We will explore many questions, keeping strictly to a three-minute limit per speaker, including but not limited to:

  • Which of the representations present in the Wall O’ Washingtons is the Platonic ideal of our first president?
  • Which city-owned sculpture constitutes the biggest waste of marble?
  • Fisher Boy: calmly waiting for a pole or tragic figure?
  • How does one best free Dolphin Boy?
  • Big flashing signs: distraction to drivers or nuanced performance art?
  • Rogers-Kennedy Memorial: why?
  • Allen Court, Denholm’s, Canal District: compare and contrast to Oilzum

Prerequisites: PHIL-101: Intro to Philosophy and PHIL-102: Intro to Palmieri.

Gone but not forgotten, bottle bill edition

I was perusing the Secretary of State’s guide to the ballot questions, and read with interest the For and Against arguments for Question 2, which would expand the existing Bottle Bill.  (Full disclosure: I fully support this effort.)

Much to my amazement, but not surprise, the individual who wrote the argument against this initiative was none other than former Worcester DPW Commissioner Bob “I Sued the EPA” Moylan.

 

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?