For John, BLUF: I am for sticking with a Plan E form of government and for sticking with the current City Manager.
The [Lowell] Sun, on Thursday, had a letter from Mr Joe Machado, advocating a Plan A (Strong Mayor) form of Government. This puts him in the same camp as last time City Council Candidate John MacDonald (J-Mac on WCAP).
I disagree with Mr Machado. I think our Plan E system is working well, as shown by the fact that the Cit Council has not bounced the current City Manager, Mr Lynch. I agree that "the City's current financial condition seems stable". I disagree with Mr Machado's characterization of our City Departments. The ones I come in contact with seem productive and customer/citizen oriented.
When I run into the City Manager downtown I try to have an anecdote of this or that department or individual I have dealt with. The vast majority of my experiences have been positive—positive because we have a professional set of people at all levels of City Government and I (1) want to encourage that activity by telling their boss and (2) want the City Manager to know that it isn't just the City Council that is grading his performance. If I am telling him, I am also telling City Councilors. On the other hand, there is one small segment of City Government I judge to be "under performing" due to being overshadowed by a different Department. I expressed my concern to the City Manager and he acknowledged the problem.
Can the City Manager do better? I am sure he can. I agree with the comments from the City Council about the City Manager holding more frequent "staff meetings". I hope the Manager is also engaged in "management by walking around". Since I am not his shadow, I don't know one way or the other. I do know I have run into him several times outside his office and that is a good sign.
I noted the comment in the Letter about our current City Manager not living in Lowell. Frankly, that is on the City Council. I have known about the concept of City Managers living in the City they manage since Fourth Grade, when Susan Sawyer moved away when her Father was appointed City Manager of Philly. The irony here is that the City Manager of Cambridge, a city down county, lives on Andover Street, here in Lowell, and has for the many years he has been CM of Cambridge.
The switch to a strong mayor, elected by the People, would change our election dynamics, but it wouldn't change the fact that our chief executive might well be looking for his or her next career move. At the end of each election under a strong mayor we will lose the talents of those who ran for mayor and lost. They will not automatically be members of our City Council.
All in all I am for sticking with our current form of Government.
Regards — Cliff