Why not give democracy a chance in appointing a new City Manager?

While is may be a bit rich to speak of Mark Rees’s brief tenure in terms of legacy, he was widely regarded as a capable City Manager who, among other accomplishments, has made good hires in key city staff positions. We all wish him the best.

One has to be a real local politics junky to even think about handicapping the search for the next City Manager, but one has got to assume that the current Assistant City Manager, Sheila Hill-Christian, would be the front runner for both the interim and permanent position. By all accounts Hill is a an extremely competent manager who is already responsible for the day to day operation of much of the City and is very deserving of the position.

Nevertheless there will be a search and there will be other personages to consider. One local personage is currant Portland Mayor Mike Brennan. Brennan was elected to lead the city, but, due to a quirk of the charter; the job description does not give him much more than a very small bully pulpit in an obscure corner of council chambers. (The job comes with no staff to speak of, no executive powers, and no real leadership over the council.) At the time of the election, there was some talk of the mayor’s imperative to exert influence in Augusta. But this is as unrealistic as it is impractical. Instead, the mayor’s job is to show up at ribbon cuttings and champion causes that are of personal, or at least political, interest to him; it is somewhat akin to that of a third-tier member of the British royal family–perhaps a Prince Andrew.
Why then; might you ask, would someone trade a job that has no real responsibilities for one that is full of responsibility?For starters, the Mayor has a demonstrated a keen interest in the management of city staff; which ultimately, is where most of what gets done in this town gets done. Secondly, the City Manager is a more or less an effective lifetime appointment which saves the Mayor from the arduous tasks of making phone calls, knocking on doors, and visiting with Barack Obama every four years. And thirdly, even though it might be unseemly, there is the possibility of collecting a double salary. Though in this unlikely scenario it is most likely that the Mayor would forgo one of his stipends; it nevertheless drives home the point that a mayor’s job is executive–so why not exert it?
Zack Barowitz

About Zack Barowitz

Zack Barowitz is a writer, artist, and flâneur. He is the radio host of "This Land Is" on WMPG Tuesday nights at 7:30. His work can be seen at ZacharyBarowitz.com.