Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I’ve spent the past few weeks, as I’m sure you have, waiting for the winter of our discontent to be over.

Alas, March 20 has come and gone, the city manager has made a formal announcement that he definitely does not want the job, and yet here the City Council remains, fixated on someone whose contract expires in October rather than doing what they should have done all along and just hire an executive search firm.

To be fair, it appears as if Councilors Rosen and Rivera are the ones pushing [$] to extend CM Augustus’ lame duck period.

But it was the Mayor and certain Councilors — past and present — who pushed us into the current situation, not helped by Councilor Palmieri’s insistence that the emphasis of many of the Municipal Operations “listening” sessions focus on an individual personality.

None of this was helped by members of the press — who kept the “will he or won’t he” question active for the fifteen Worcesterites who actually felt this was a real question — as well the City Manager himself, who could have put a stop to this nonsense and chose not to.

So Clive McFarlane is able to write a column [$] about Augustus’ “veracity” and integrity as if they were rare qualities rather than a bare minimum for membership in the human race.

I’m sorry, but on my planet, praising a fortysomething-year-old man for keeping his word is a bit like praising a ten-year-old for being potty trained.

Whether the manager has integrity or not is a bit beside the point; if he weren’t a man of his word, one would expect his employers to show him the door.

The problem is that many of his eleven employers wouldn’t know integrity if it bit them in the hindquarters.

Continuing to wave this job in front of him is a bit like trying to sign your favorite Catholic priest up for match.com.

We can tell he’s trying to be a man of integrity — just let him be a man of integrity and focus on the task that’s been at hand for four months.

Get the search firm and find a new city manager.

And once you have him (or her!), remember that that individual is a manager, and that the Council’s responsibility is to give that manager a to-do list.

For too long, we have looked to city managers for vision.

The City Council is the employer — the Council’s job is to give guidance, to come together as a body and talk about real issues and, in a collaborative way, decide which direction the city is going to go in — and empower the manager to carry out that vision.

Stop looking for Superman.

This is a team effort.

The manager is just one player in this team, and he’s the player who’s supposed to carry out the wishes of the people through the Council.  If the Council doesn’t give him direction, then how are the people’s wishes being carried out?

You can look at Mike O’Brien as a cautionary tale.  The Council gave him free rein and, at times, contradictory directions.  Witness CitySquare, which was supposed to be mixed-use and which does not contain any housing or any street-level retail.  Or a freight yard in the middle of the city.  Or a continued fight that we will not win against the EPA.

Mike O’Brien had many admirable qualities.  One of them was not his attempts to fill the vacuum where Council leadership should have been.  I don’t fault him for that.  I fault his employers, who could have and should have given him better direction — any direction.

The next city manager offers us a chance for a fresh start.

We can hire someone who has experience running a municipality or other large organization.

The City Council can actually act as an employer and provide guidance and direction to that individual.

But we’re not going to get there if we still keep pining for Ed Augustus.

Get over the breakup and start looking for a new prom date, Worcester.

We were never even going steady with him, anyway!

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One thought on “Breaking Up is Hard to Do

  1. I was having these same thoughts yesterday about Clive’s “veracity” article. The city council can’t get mad when they are told there is an old boy network and then continue to drool like Pavlov’s dog over a man who said he doesn’t want the job….move on

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