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April 24, 2017

A City Manager for Frederick? No!

Harry M. Covert

There is a lot of humor in all areas for political watchers. To those keeping ears and eyes attuned to goings on at city and town halls throughout Frederick County, the guffaws are abundant.


Whispers have been circulating. I've got to laud Mallory Panuska, The Frederick News-Post reporter who covers activities of Frederick city government.


I may well be a bit jealous, but she obviously knows news and how to write it properly and succinctly.


The proposal under discussion is that Frederick City should consider a charter change to a city manager form of government. In other words, instead of electing a mayor to run the municipality, let the Board of Aldermen go out and hire a city manager.


Of course, this audacious idea is off the bubble. The simple reason: chances are if and when that would come, a "professional" would be sought. Most likely, a person who won't know the history of the city or those citizens who prefer to choose their manager – the mayor.


The current alderman, who suggested this outrageous form of government, is quoted with this gem per Ms. Panuska's reportage:


"I think we're long past due to have a professionally managed city government similar to other cities our size," said Alderman Josh Bokee.


This isn't the best one, though.


He continued, and apparently with a straight face, hiring a city manager would "take the politics" out of city operations.


It's nice, perhaps, to think that would happen. Won't happen, nary a bit.


Doubters could contact any active or retired city manager and ask about involvement of politics in that form of government. They will fall off the swivel chairs. They must be good politicians to keep their jobs.


So, those public servants, who raise money for campaigns, knock on doors and put the arm on business leaders, won't involve themselves in city management?


Please stop laughing.


Factually, the city or town managers may have the acumen to learn about management details. The first lesson they learn is how to work with those elected. Few elected mayors would stand for a city manager who ignored their wishes.


The alderman, who thinks Frederick city hasn't been managed properly. is doing his constituents a disservice.


Certainly, voters have their favorites. The mayoral management style is most advantageous.


The mayor, no matter who, has direct and immediate relationship with the people and city staffs. I saw the comment that the Frederick mayor's salary would be slashed and the pro would be an enormous six-figure pay.


Frederick's government has served the people well over the years, some hiccups probably.


Among the features locally, Frederick is not like other Maryland jurisdictions disjointed by city managers. Why create unnecessary problems?


There are lots of steps required before a change in the city charter. Change for change sake isn't required. These suggestions usually start off slow, thankfully. In this case, cooler heads must prevail and stomp out any such movement.


I would think current Mayor Randy McClement would take offense at the effort. It would not be shocking to discover previous mayors would stand with him, even in principle.


Others may think ridding politics from local government can be accomplished with a city manager. That will never happen, nor should it.


This is a lesson as to why journalism is so important to everyday life, particularly in the local level.


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