It might come as a shock to my loyal readers, but I often attend City Council meetings under the assumption that I live in a normal city.
Invariably, I am thrown off my game at some point during any given meeting.
Either Carol Claros has a different hair color, or Jo Hart only insults half the City Council, or some dude who used to be my state senator gets appointed city manager for life.
Or — as happened last night — all three…
In the past week, I’ve read various media accounts about how former city manager Hoover suddenly resigned, and how the City Council had to scramble to find a replacement, when Mike O’Brien dropped out of the sky and became the anointed one.
That is not how many of us remember it.
The way we remember it, a gang of City Councilors led by then-Mayor Tim Murray decided that they wanted Hoover gone and their guy in. They waited until a few councilors were out of the meeting and then told him to tender his resignation.
And then there was no need for a nationwide search, because the perfect candidate had been in Worcester all along.
Last night was the first City Council meeting after Mike O’Brien tendered his resignation, and there was an item on the agenda to discuss that:
Mayor Joseph M. Petty request the City Council accept the Letter of Resignation from Michael V. O’Brien as City Manager, effective January 5, 2014, and further, request to proceed to discussion concerning an interim and permanent replacement City Manager, and further, request the City Clerk provide the City Council with details regarding the process and timeline followed during the 1993 City Manager search and appointment process.
If we lived in a normal city, we’d assume that that meant the City Council was going to discuss potential interim managers and beginning the process to find a new permanent manager.
But we live in Worcester.
The machine has its favorites queued up, and it’s planning on playing the same game it played so well ten years ago.
So Rick Rushton can say “Bottom line is Ed Augustus will be city manager whether you hold it under privilege or not, it’s not going to stop” in a meeting without fear of contradiction from his colleagues and with no worries about being made a liar.
Is it too much to ask the machine to pretend the game isn’t rigged?
So, in future, rather than the mayor mentioning a candidate, he could mention two (or even three!) candidates. We will of course know that there’s only one really viable candidate, because he will have the halo glowing over his head, but we can at least pretend there’ll be a choice.
Then, after Phil Palmieri talks for 10-15 minutes, Rick Rushton can pretend that he and Bill Eddy didn’t already have their marching orders, and make sure not to let it slip that “we” haven’t yet spoken to that candidate, even though the mayor just brought his name forward for consideration five minutes earlier.
Then we can have a real Municipal Operations meeting, preferably not at 2:00pm on a Friday afternoon, where a few citizens might share their opinions and city councilors might occasionally glance at them.
And then we can select the candidate for an interim position, or a nine-month contract.
A nationwide search will be conducted, and we’ll all agree at the end that the best candidates are homegrown, and no one will be surprised, and everyone will be pleased, when our man is selected as city manager.
That’s how you do it, gentlemen.