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?