I was a fool. When I first heard that Fall River might move away from a mayor to a city manager, I thought, “Well, it might not be so bad to get rid of these endless elected disasters, and hire ourselves a pro.”
After all, when I want someone to work on my car, I find someone who has worked as a mechanic before and has some training. What I don’t do is announce that I need work done on my car and then hire someone I just happen to like a lot.
“Well,” I would say in that case. “Sure, this person has never worked on a car before, but he/she says he’ll figure it out, and he/she knocked on my door, and robo-called my phone, telling me he/she wanted to be my mechanic.”
Naaah. I don’t do that, not at all. I take my car to a repair place, where they have mechanics who have been fixing cars for years, people who take regular training to keep up with the trade of fixing cars.
Yeah. I was a fool.
Seems that, if we were to hire a city manager, we would be getting some kind of city-running professional, but we would keep our mayor.
Only government assumes that, if the guy you hired can’t do the job, you don’t fire him. Instead, you keep him and hire another guy to do the job the first person isn’t doing.
Eventually, I guess we could have a mayor, a city manager to do the mayor’s job, a city manager’s manager to do the city manager’s job, and possibly, a manager of mayors and managers to do everybody’s job. Each one of these people will need a chief of staff, too, and each chief of staff will get a $10,00 stipend every time it snows.
Can you say, “banana republic?”
If we decide to get a city manager to run things, we’ll still keep the mayor, but he/she will be in a “ceremonial role,” you know, like the Queen of England.
You ever had a job where your role was “ceremonial?” Me, neither. If I get a job, they always expect me to do something. Over the decades, I’ve been expected to write news stories, write columns, tend bar, sweep floors, be a radio talk show host, work in a furniture warehouse, and many other non-ceremonial things. That’s probably been the nature of your work life, too. There’s nothing “ceremonial” about framing houses or being a CNA.
Of course, if we hire a city manager, we’ll cut the figurehead mayor’s salary down to, say, $60,000 a year. Hell, most of the people reading this column have never had a $60,000-a-year paycheck for doing ANYTHING.
Then, once we agree to pay the figurehead mayor $60,000 a year, we’ll go out and hire a city manager for, say, $140,000 a year, and both of them will be eligible for health insurance and a pension. It takes real legislative brilliance to turn one job paying $120,000 a year with one set of benefits into TWO jobs paying a total of $200,000 a year with TWO sets of benefits. The city, she is saved!
A ceremonial mayor, I’m informed, would cut ribbons, attend groundbreakings, maybe pass out prizes at grade school science fairs.
I could do that job! Frankly, so could you, no matter what you’re doing right now.
In fact, if we decide to hire a city manager, and have a ceremonial mayor, maybe we should make the mayor’s job hereditary like the British do with their royal family.
The best things about this is we wouldn’t have to re-elect the little slug every couple of years, you couldn’t recall the mayor anymore, and if the next mayor turned out to be a dope, it wouldn’t be anyone’s fault.
The whole thing is a little medieval, but Renaissance Fairs are huge these days. Maybe rocketing Fall River back to the year 1200 would be a tourist draw.
“Come see the city that time forgot!” could be our new tourist-attracting slogan. That’s much better than “Make It Here.”
As always, we peasants will continue to till the fields and pay the taxes. Some things don’t change. Huzzah for His Majesty the Mayor!