Love Fest

Tonight’s City Council meeting will feature the yearly evaluation of the City Manager.

I do not dislike the City Manager, and I don’t think he does a horrible job.  My feelings about his job performance are complicated, but are tempered by his excellent hair.

[Seriously, folks, if Mike O'Brien left his post, the Good Hair in the upper echelons of city government would be reduced by 50%.  Ponder that for a moment!]

You may recall that while the City Manager is supposed to be evaluated in four specific categories (Finance, Economic Development, Management Efficiencies, and Delivery of Public Services), last year’s evaluations were rather free-form.

The City Manager’s self-evaluation is available for your perusal.  He lists the following categories: Fiscal Discipline and Stewardship, Economic Growth and Expansion, Neighborhood and Housing Development, Infrastructure Improvements, Delivery of Core Municipal Services, Management Efficiencies and Improvements, and Awards and Legislative Accomplishments.

(So, somewhere in there the four categories are included.  I’ve tried perusing the minutes of Municipal Operations meetings to see if the evaluation categories have changed, and I couldn’t find any notes indicating a change.  If you find it, please let me know.)

As I said, with few exceptions (Barbara Haller’s being the most notable), last year’s Council evaluations did not evaluate the City Manager by those categories (and sub-categories).  This is unfortunate for the City Manager, and it’s equally unfortunate for the citizenry.

It’s not that the City Manager’s doing a lousy job.

It’s that this is the one time of the year for our elected officials to evaluate him based on mutually agreed upon categories, and the one time of the year when we’d have the opportunity to prioritize and set goals.

Last year, we turned the evaluation into a love fest.

And there’s really no reason this year’s evaluation shouldn’t involve a certain amount of measured admiration for our chief executive.

But the City Manager deserves — and we deserve — something more than a random listing of accomplishments bookended by numbers 4.7 and 5.0.  There are always areas for improvement, and there are always areas we should see our elected officials leading and directing our appointed officials.

This should be one of them.

(Self-promoting Note: I published a two-part series on Weak Mayor/Strong Mayor around this time last year, in anticipation of last year’s evaluation of the City Manager.  My opinions haven’t changed, so if you haven’t read it, you might want to read about the theoretical strengths of a Strong Mayor and the paradoxical strengths of a Weak Mayor.)

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