Thursday, October 1, 2015

Let's Just Hire Toni Basil

I had someone tell me yesterday how much easier they felt this country was to govern, “when it all got started back in the day” which was his way of trying to disguise yet another glaring shortcoming of trading high school American History for “Civics” or some such claptrap since without putting him on the spot, I suspect he had no idea when we began doing business as a nation at this location. Hint: It was before MTV stopped showing music videos, by a little bit. 

I have no idea how this nation’s legislation works, and judging from the evening news, much of my mystification is shared by those whom we send to our nation’s capital. I fear sometimes we think it’s okay to get the big things less than right since the devil is in the details and we all want to go heaven (actually I was hoping for the Pacific Northwest for selfish, personal reasons).

And yet back here on earth (you can tell it’s earth because we wear clothes) I live in a state with a full-time Governor whose professional department heads make more than he does (maybe they’re being paid by weight or height?) with a part-time legislature who struggles to do the right thing in what must feel at times like a mushroom farm in terms of the information they get from the administrative branch of state government to facilitate the decision-making.

What? Oh yeah, officially there’s an executive, legislative and judicial branch. And the one whose name we dare not speak and whose existence we dare not acknowledge that was here before we were born and will outlive us all.

Though your mileage may vary in many cities and towns across the Land of Steady Habits, here in Norwich we have a professional city manager or are supposed to by charter (our municipal owner’s manual). This person does all the managing of a city stuff to include the various departments and agencies, volunteer groups and tons of ‘other duties as assigned’ (as we called it in the USAF) that is part of the scenery of municipal machinery. 

The City Manager is hired by the City Council at whose pleasure s/he serves.
The City Council members are all volunteers who spend far more time in the service of the rest than most of us, to include me (okay, especially me) ever give them credit for and do it for a pittance. Actually, if we quadrupled the monthly stipend, then it would be a pittance; as it is, if you hit the couch cushions of your grandparents twice a month, you have their ‘salary’ and some gas money.

We’re racing to a conclusion but don’t get ahead of me, okay? You’re right: it would seem we have amateurs evaluating the performance of a professional. Yes, the former are very public-spirited and generous of spirit who really and truly love their city. No, none of those are actual skills or abilities. Thanks for playing. 

Norwich has had an acting City Manager since before Valentine’s Day as Breaking Up Wasn’t So Hard to Do for reasons that, all this time passed, remain less than clear, and that I suspect deliberately so.  The City has been borrowing the General Manager of the Norwich Public Utilities, NPU, who has continued to hold his day job.

In fairness, I guess, we have allowed NPU to continue to pay him while he is acting (“what variance through yon window breaks? It is the FY budget and Juliet is the East.”); I’m thinking maybe that word doesn’t mean what I think it means. I think it helps make my argument that we should have Wimpy on our city flag, in place of The Rose, except on Tuesdays, of course. Or when flying the flag at NPU.

Waldo might have been easier to find than a new full-time city manager at the rate we’re looking. The City Council just hired a Dora the Explorer firm the other night to help in the search and would like, it seems, according to this article, to ‘shorten’ the entire process. I was hoping to find the “City Manager Profile” mentioned in the news story on the city’s website; people in Hades hope for ice water. I guess we all learn to live with disappointment.

I applaud the desire to seek out “(T)he ideal candidate (who) will serve as an adviser and partner to the City Council while leading and managing the staff….He/she will value information and transparency and always act in a manner that places the best interest of the city first.” But my fancy is especially tickled to learn: ‘City leaders also want a candidate who is a “cheerleader” for the city and who can anticipate future trends and position the city for long-term needs.’

In other words, we’re on the prowl for a Mister or Miss Cleo with a hopefully very gently used set of pom-poms wearing an international emergency orange flak jacket. M-O-U-S-E?

-bill kenny 

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