Monday, January 13, 2014

Insurrection in City Hall

in·sur·rec·tion (ns-rkshn)n.The act or an instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government.

From the 2011 City Council candidate questionnaire (Lowell Sun):
10. Would an elected strong mayor form of government serve Lowell better than the present Plan E government setup giving the council the authority to hire a city manager?

C.Elliott. I support the strong Mayor form of government. I believe the person at the top needs to be a vested member of our community. Lowell has the talent pool available to field enough qualified candidates for a Mayoral form of government to succeed. The people that pay the taxes should also have a direct say in who they want to run their City.

I bring this up, in this tone, to give Lowellians insight into why Bernie Lynch resigned, along with a chunk of the senior City staff. They are not respected, nor wanted, by the majority of those elected in November. As such, that disdain must be indicative of the sentiment of the majority of voters in Lowell.

Lowell is getting what is deserves. So, as those thrust awkwardly into the 'front seat' and under the microscope, squirm in the heightened attention and scrutiny; let's not get distracted by their moans. This is what they shot for. Ready. Fire. Aim!

I accept what I wrote above to be true. In the words of Warren Shaw, the host of WCAP Saturday Morning Live - 980AM, "over this last year, this Administration was rode hard and put away wet." For this reason, I think any talk of Bernie Lynch lingering past March 10th is ill advised. Let this Council form our next Administration, in their image.

I would prefer that they continue with, what some call, "professional city management." I know what that means to me, but I'll concede the term is vague, especially in Lowell. The notion of "professional" is often juxtaposed against the term "political." Historically, by a wide margin, Lowell has preferred City Managers that had previously been elected, by the people, to some public office. Ultimately, this is an eye of the beholder thing. My eye has a preference. Let me explain why.

If I create a card board cut out of Bernie Lynch, or let's look at his resume without his personality, what do I see? I see a person that has taken up the trade of running a municipality. It is a 'white collar' trade, for sure. But, such a person is schooled, trained and practiced at the dedicated vocation of operating a portion, or whole, municipality. From here on, on this blog, that is what I will mean by "professional city management."

By proximity to the political realm, a "professional manager" is political. Anyone that asserts that running a small town or big City can been done without political instincts and tactics is misinformed. I'm not even sure why the word "political" is a dirty word. I admire the vocation of politics. Public service, in its pure form, is noble. That said, I'm not pollyannish. So, I recognize the trepidation behind the thoughts of those who loathe politcal forces in municipal administration. They fear the nefarious influences that mimic the "Society of St. Tammany." There have been enough shenanigans in Lowell to warrant such trepidation. I will not recant my blurting of the brand, "Shady Lowell."

A quick note on "political city management." If I take the definition I used above and mix in the scrum of politics, I would say we could get closer to defining it. Of course, it will vary from politician to politician. As they may or may not have come to run a municipality via a dedicated vocation of municipal administration. A politician can be anyone, who garners enough public support to get elected. Such a person has very keen instincts to seek out public opinion and build consensus. Such skills are to be applauded.

But this, "public opinion and build consensus," is where I think the ax meets the grind stone. When I openly concede that both approaches to municipal administration are political, how can I honestly differentiate a preference? Good & fair question.

Politics, at its core, is about people and community. If you know me, you know I aspire to live by this premise:

From the Preamble of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.

I think a true professional administrator tries his/her damn hardest to 'covenant with the whole people.' I think a politician, whose instincts are to win elections, aim to create a 'covenant' with voters. Lowell is a city of 106,000 souls. Sorry, but I don't think Rodney Elliott, or any of his confused compatriots, give one hoot beyond who votes. More, specifically, who votes for THEM.

Listen to mayor Elliott's inaugural address. Note the focus on his 'supporters,' 'voters' and 'taxpayers.'

Thus, in the context of who becomes our City Manager, I want a person that will seek to build a broad consensus. A consensus that extends as far into 106,000 Lowellians, as humanly possible. Such a person would, most likely, be a "professional city manager," as I've described above. Your run of the mill, "political City manager" will seek to build consensus within the active voter base. In Lowell, that is about 9,000 people.

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