Repeatedly on Save Fitchburg we see bloggers express as priorities running the city in a businesslike manner, having a definite plan for the city's future, and attracting business and industry to provide jobs and share the economic burden of the city.
Bloggers regularly express their frustration at the general lack of business acumen of our mayor and city councilors, and at our electoral process being a personality contest (if not exactly a beauty contest), rather than a comparison of the most qualified candidates. While that might work reasonably well at the council level, it has become disastrous at the executive level.
Our current form of city government, "strong mayor, weak council", is modeled after municipal governments in the days of King George. While we overthrew British rule, we continue to suffer under the outmoded concept of the "little people" subject to the whims of the local monarch.
I was personally three years of age before I spoke, and some say I've been making up for it ever since. Certainly, once having found my voice, I want to assure that my voice and the voices of all my fellow citizens are heard.
I believe, as do others, that it is high time we explored alternatives to being perpetual children, subjects of the Lord Mayor, regardless of the individual who fills that role. I do not easily bend my knee except to a Higher Authority, and my very essence (and probably that of my pre-Revolutionary Colonial ancestors) rebels at the prospect of being "governed" and ruled over by the Wizard of Oz in the corner office, regardless of who he/she may be at the time. I do know many others who feel the same.
It is time that the mayor's role became a function of ceremony and ombudsmanship. Fitchburg is far too large and has far too much at stake for a social worker, department store clerk, schoolteacher, or other (albeit nice and well meaning) individual without professional municipal management training and experience having a stranglehold on a now almost ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR TAXPAYER FUNDED MUNICIPAL BUDGET.
This city has been run haphazardly for too long, and in reality, our beautiful city has been run into the ground.
I am of the firm opinion that we have one chance left not just to "Save Fitchburg," but to REBUILD Fitchburg, and that is by utilizing professional management.
Fitchburg, as a city of approximately 40,000 souls, is in the minority of the cities and towns in the United States in continuing our antiquated Mayor-Council form of government. The majority of municipalities with populations over 12,000 successfully utilize the services of a professional administrator, whether (s)he be termed a City Manager, Chief Administrator or other moniker.
These individuals usually have at least a Bachelor's and frequently advanced degree in municipal management and administration, and participate regularly in continuing education opportunities. They are hired by the city council, which retains all legislative and approval authority. The city manager is answerable to the city council, and thereby to the citizens.
From the ICMA (International City/County Management Association website, http://www.icma.org/
) is a nutshell synopsis of how it works:
"Under a system of local government called the council-manager form, the elected officials are the community leaders and policy makers who establish a vision for their city, town, or county, and who hire the manager to carry out policy and ensure that all residents are being equitably served. The manager coordinates the work of department heads and other employees, who help ensure the smooth and efficient delivery of services. By building public/private partnerships, managers target all of a community's resources to solve current problems."
I have learned today that some of our elected officials have taken the first step in formally inquiring into the steps to revise the city charter and consider a Council - City Manager form of government, with a ceremonial role of mayor (at reduced salary).
I strongly endorse this exploration, have volunteered to serve and assist in any private citizen's role as needed, and I ask that if you would be interested in serving on a citizen's committee to EXPLORE AND INVESTIGATE both revising the City Charter and considering whether a City Manager would be right for Fitchburg, please make yourself known.
And please before you point to Worcester's difficulties don't decide before you have investigated the majority of successes. Try Staunton or Charlottesville VA; Cincinnati or Akron, OH; Richland, WA; San Jose or Palo Alto or Berkely, CA; Tempe, AZ; Dallas or Austin, TX - just for starters and comparison.
It is time. And time is rapidly running out.