OPINION: When It Comes To “City Manager” We Prefer Brunettes Over Blondes

Freeport, Illinois – As many of you have probably heard the city of Freeport, (not the city itself but a citizen formed organization in the city) has put together a group called the Committee To Change City Government.  We brought you news about this effort in a previous broadcast and separate news piece.

Essentially, the committee seeks to add to the November ballot an option for voters, (that means you) to vote (Yes or No) for the city of Freeport to adopt a city manager style of government.

What does that mean?

Basically, another position in the mix. A new set position of “City Manager” (with salary plus benefits) that isn’t supposed to have to deal with the often mundane tasks of “running” a city and can focus more on “managing” the city, ie; it’s growth, its development, its economy, community, etc…

The first step of the group was to obtain signatures from the public on a petition.

The petition asked potential signers if they would like to have the question of adopting a city manager style government on the ballot in November. The group spent the last couple months going around to events and areas of town talking with residents seeking those signatures.

In more recent news the Committee announced that they had obtained the required number of signatures and had a hearing in the Stephenson County Courthouse whereby the court ruled that the petitions submitted were sufficient.

The following proposition will be submitted to the voters of the city of Freeport at the November 8, 2016 general election.

The proposition you’ll see on your November ballot will be as follows:

Shall the City of Freeport Adopt the Managerial Form of Municipal Government?

That means this November you’re going to have a choice on your ballot on whether (Yes) to elect that the city of Freeport have a City Manager form of government, or (No) we don’t think a City Manager is good for Freeport.

If passed (by your vote) it would physically change Freeport’s form of municipal government.  

So let’s discuss this a little.

For one, let’s just point out the obvious here. The name Committee To Change City Government is going to appeal to a very broad spectrum of people. If you walk into a bar, (or a movie theater, mall, or walk down the street) and say “I want to change city government” you’d probably get a standing ovation.

Everyone wants to change city government. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says, “nope, I love the way our government is just fine thank you“.  You might have better odds winning the lotto or I don’t know, catching a fly with chopsticks.

Point being, getting over 700 signatures at a time when the Fair and Cruise Night took place in order to obtain the right to put the question “Shall the City of Freeport Adopt the Managerial Form of Municipal Government?” on the November ballot from a group called Committee To Change City Government wouldn’t be too hard of a task to begin with. Not easy, just not too hard.

A point important in the understanding of how the public might really feel about this topic and a warning before you think it signifies a consensus of the people. Some people vote by unknown influence simply because they believe it’s how “other people feel” when the truth is, other people may not feel as it might intentionally or unintentionally be portrayed. Our guess, most people didn’t ask too many questions and they just signed the petition.

Additionally the question itself is rather self-assuming. Shall the City of Freeport Adopt the Managerial Form of Municipal Government? One might first think, aren’t we already? You mean we don’t have a managerial form of government? That might seem ridiculous to some, but don’t count them out either.

Not everyone is hip to political lingo or even necessarily know what departments the city has, (caring is an article for another day). It could lead to an obvious answer of yes, more as in duh, based on its presumed meaning. “Of course I want them to have managers.

At either rate, we substantiate this not just for the reasons stated, but also because this question (of having a city manager) has come up before.

In fact, four times before.

Four other times the question (of having a city manager) has been proposed and each time the people of the city of Freeport voted No. In other words, petitions were drafted, signatures were obtained (just like they were now) and the people of Freeport as a whole said nope, not today in the port.

Armed with that little background, in all fairness some of that doesn’t really matter.  A history of people voting No doesn’t always make the choice wrong no more than a history of voting Yes makes a choice right. We’d go out on a limb to say that we’ve all most likely seen that in action within our own lifetimes.

Is it right for Freeport is the question.  Will it help Freeport? Will we get our money back and then some in the investment of a City Manager? (It’s the one thing you never hear about is it? ROI?).

Additionally, will the City Manager and the Mayor/City Council get along? At times we have a hard enough time with just the Mayor and City Council. Is adding a 3rd party the answer? Will it result in more turmoil? Less turmoil?

The answer?

No one really knows for sure and recent news only confirms this is not a fix all, utopia on the horizon either. We did a simple Google news search for the term “City Managers” and on the first three pages this is what we found.

On August 17, 2016 the Daily Commercial out of Leesburg, Fl reported that because of a dispute with the City Council their city manager resigned. “Several months after Mount Dora’s city manager resigned over a dispute with the City Council, the council has agreed on a contract with…” and they go on to name who’s next. Their salary? A whopping $135,000 with a $5,000 increase in March. $140k per year.

On August 12, 2016 the Los Angeles WAVE reported that Compton is looking for new City Manager because the one they had was fired. “The city has been looking for someone to fill the executive level position since the Compton City Council voted to oust the last person that held the job — Roger Haley III — during a closed-door session at the July 27 City Council meeting“.

August 11, 2016 WPRI  reported that the East Providence, Ri City Council “passed a resolution on Thursday to suspend City Manager Richard Kirby with pay. Mayor Tommy Rose called for Kirby to be terminated“. The article went on to say, “We need roads to be paved, schools to be fixed and we’re dealing with lawsuits of revolving doors with city managers just because of you know, political vendettas”.  Hmmm, sound familiar?

On August 9, 2016 the Daily Bulletin reported that the city of Upland, Ca will “pay fired city manager Rod Butler nearly $23,000 a month — or $206,997 over a nine-month period — not to show up to work“. On July 27, the Upland City Council terminated Butler, effective Aug. 29.

July 28, 2016 the Statesman reported that in Bastrop, Tx their “interim” City Manager resigned. “Bastrop’s interim city manager resigned late Tuesday night during an executive session of the City Council, about three hours after the city attorney resigned after complaining some council members were seeking to oust her”.

On July 28, 2016 KENS5 reported that the city manager of Castle Hills, Tx was “terminated earlier this month after repeated confrontations with other city leaders, records confirmed Thursday“. It goes on to say that “Diane Pfeil was removed from her position July 11, following a 4-1 ‘no confidence’ vote by Castle Hills city council. Pfeil’s removal came less than a year after council approved a 24 percent pay raise for her, increasing her salary to $117,500 a year“.

Before you even get to all that fun though, you have to have a City Manager.
Step 2: Finding the person (which costs money).

On August 18, 2016 The Daily Star reported that in Oneonta, Ny Council approved paying $4,000 for company to conduct a study. “Jerry Faiella, NYSCMA executive director, and Mike Ritchie, an NYSCMA consultant, gave a presentation in front of the Oneonta Common Council during its regular meeting at City Hall. The two men gave recommendations to help officials move forward in the search for a city manager“.

On July 29, 2016 the Denton Record Chronicle reported that the Denton, Tx Assistant City Manager Howard Martin has been “serving in an interim post since George Campbell stepped down July 1. Campbell, 72, served nearly 10 years as city manager before the council voted in June not to renew his contract. Council members have remained silent on their reasons for dismissing Campbell after reaching a separation agreement with him in which both sides agreed not to say anything that could damage the reputation of the other”.  Additionally, “In its proposal, the company offered to conduct a web-based survey of residents, employees and community leaders as an extra service. The firm offered to conduct the search for $24,500. The public survey would cost an additional $1,650“.

On August 18, 2016 the Pekin Daily Times reports that their City manager search brings interest. “The GovHR USA search for a new Pekin City Manager brought in 33 resumes for the position. The city signed a contract with GovHR for $19,500 in June, which put the company in charge of narrowing the field of candidates to fit the Pekin City Council’s criteria, but two council members are asking to see all of the resumes. The city has not yet been provided with any information on the candidates — sex, salary requested, experience and other information“.

> Note: In this instance the search company holds all the search candidate results and doesn’t even give it to the City Council.

On May 11, 2016 (not very recent) but the Steamboat Today in he their City Council is “questioning whether the search firm it paid to help find its next city manager thoroughly vetted all of the candidates and delivered on all of its promises“. The council hired the firm at a cost of $23,459.

There may even be political agenda’s being played on both sides, or with the public.

On July 29, 2016 the Chicago Tribune reported that the Park Ridge City Council probably will not begin searching for a new city manager to lead day-to-day municipal operations until next year, according to acting Mayor Marty Maloney. “We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now because the way the state law is written, a city manager cannot have a contract exceeding the term of the current mayor,” Maloney said. “If we hired someone, we couldn’t give them a contract extending longer than April.

On August 10, 2016 the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the Petersburg, Va City Council excluded the public from their search for new city manager. “The Petersburg City Council is moving forward without public input in their search for a new city manager, discarding a previous plan to appoint a member of the public to a panel tasked with reviewing applications“.

> Note: In this instance the search company excludes the public.

On August 23, 2016 Cincinnati.com reported that the “Cincinnati City Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the future of City Manager Harry Black“, adding that “Depending on who’s talking, that future is either bright or dire“. It was stated that “Councilman Wendell Young, a Democrat, said he and fellow Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican, want to discuss “the status” of the city manager because of rumors circulating about him being on the outs with Mayor John Cranley“.

On August 18, 2016 the Bureau of National Affairs reported that on August 17, 2016 a Florida city manager who “was fired after he alleged corruption and campaign finance violations by the mayor may proceed with a claim that his termination violated his First Amendment free speech rights“. It goes on to say that an attorney for the city manager feels that the appeals court provided a very important guideline for other public officials in the future saying “it protects public employees’ First Amendment rights when they’re trying to act as whistle-blowers and report such information and corruption as they see it”.

 > Note: Even when you try and clean things up, it may not end well.

When there is no acting City Manager, another city worker from another department may have to fill in. 

On August 17th, 2016 the Scottsdale Independent reported that the discovery of a qualified city manager candidate “continues to evade Scottsdale City Council as City Hall officials contend a new crop of finalists should sprout by the end of this calendar year. Brian K. Biesemeyer, Scottsdale water director, has been acting city manager since June 2015“.

On August 22, 2016 the Las Cruces Sun-News reported that “David Dollahon, assistant city manager and chief administration officer for the city of Las Cruces, was appointed Monday by the Las Cruces City Council to serve as interim city manager for three months“. It added that the search continues for a permanent city manager.

On August 15, 2016 CalCoastNews.com reported that in Arroyo Grande, Ca the Arroyo Grande City Council’s plans to “hire Robert McFall to serve as interim city manager were dismantled shortly after the council voted last week to approve his contract“.  It added that on Aug. 9, the council “voted unanimously to approve the contract that included an hourly pay rate of $125  and a monthly housing allowance of $1,700“. The article also said however that before the contract was signed, it was discovered it was not in conformance with CalPERS rules regarding limitations on housing and travel allowances. Now they are trying to work out those issues.

On August 20, 2016 the Jacksonville Progress reported that City leaders voted Tuesday to “hire Kilgore resident Jim Dunaway as Rusk’s interim city manager”, adding that on Aug. 9, the council “named Bob Goldsberry – the city’s director of economic development – as acting city manager until an interim was named“.

 > Note: “This is the 3rd line in the chain. In this case we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul until Jim can be found. The city’s economic development director fills in until an interim is named while they still need to find a city manager”.

And that’s not all. The first 100 callers who order today also get some allegations, accusations and drama absolutely Free.

On August 22, 2016 NewsChief reported that in Winter Haven, Ct, that the “City Commissioner William Twyford wanted to fire City Manager Deric Feacher at Monday night’s meeting, but a vote will have to wait“.  Adding that he has “gone over with clients that there are things you shouldn’t post on Facebook,” said Twyford, who is an attorney. “I shouldn’t have to do it with a city manager”.

ast Providence City Council appointed Timothy Chapman, the city’s solicitor, the interim city manager in a 3 to 2 vote Sunday night. That the vote comes “less than two weeks after the former city manager, Richard Kirby, was placed on paid leave. Mayor Thomas Rose says Kirby failed to investigate sexual harassment claims made by a city employee — claims reported by the NBC 10 I-team earlier this year“.  Additionally saying that the city has gone through five city managers in six years. “Our last city manager is currently under a contract, a 3-year contract. He’s been here for 10 months and he’s been released. That to me sends a poor message to anybody else out there who’s looking or seeking to be the next city manager of the city“.

On August 8, 2016 WAVY wrote a headline, “Virginia Beach city manager defends interaction with officer” The article stated, “Officials with the City of Virginia Beach want to know if City Manager Dave Hansen yelled at a police officer over the weekend. The alleged incident was documented in a Facebook post and shared by Councilman John Moss. Now, he and other city leaders are looking for answers“.

There’s even this follow up article. “Virginia Beach city manager apologizes to officer” Apologizes. IN THE NEWS!

It’s ridiculous.

So, is there any hope? Are there positive news stories of City Manager’s making progress?

Well, it’s not headline news if there is. We’re not sure if this is just the fault of how the news reports our world, (you know how we feel about the media) or if this is just a sign of the “normal” to come, but most of the news we see are headlines such as these;

  • City credit cards: Misuse of city credit cards allowed and permitted
  • Bothell city manager fired after 11 years on job
  • East Providence City Council appoints new interim city manager
  • Park Ridge finance head named interim city manager
  • New deputy city manager has been hired for Berkeley
  • Hermosa Beach city manager will step down, become CEO of Beach
  • Pinch retiring; Walker is new Independence city manager
  • Hearne officials make budget priority issue over hiring city manager
  • Hudson City Council approves raise for city manager
  • Bluefield extends City Manager Dane Rideout’s contract
  • Mount Angel rolls out four new city manager finalists

“You don’t see headlines that read “new jobs” or “another new business”. You don’t see headlines that say the city is spending less, has a surplus, is growing, adding to city services and people’s lives such as you would say, the CEO of a company”.

There’s just nothing of substance here. It’s news about finding them, not finding them, them doing something wrong, getting a raise, it’s just all you see. We did see this however.

On August 22, 2016 the Florida Today reported that the city of Rockledge, Fl has narrowed its search for a new city manager to five candidates, three of them local residents. Adding that when a new manager is selected Sept. 7 from the finalists, “it will be only the third manager since 1960 when the city went to a council/city manager form of government“.

But, let’s get back to our City Manager. The City Manager of Freeport.

If you have listened to any of the speeches or talked with anyone who is a part of the Committee To Change City Government, you may have heard them say that the City Manager is essentially like having a CEO.  That you wouldn’t dream of operating a company without a CEO, so why would a city. That’s very appealing.

Other things have been that the city of Freeport needs someone with business sense, business savvy, someone who knows how to run a business (of Freeport’s size and complexity) and knows how to grow it. That’s appealing too.

Essentially at the end of the day, that’s what they’re proposing with a City Manager.

He or she is not a new Mayor, not another City Council Member, rather a third party to it all, outside of it somewhat, yet a part of it and able to influence it.

“The City Manager is not a new Mayor, not another City Council Member, rather a third party to it all, outside of it, yet a part of it and able to influence it”.

In an article dated August 15, 2016, the Journal Standard reported that city Alderman could “push back the date the mayor is seated so they can review the results of the city manager referendum before setting the mayor’s salary“, adding that “State law requires that compensation for elected officials be set 180 days before they are seated. If the referendum passes, aldermen expect to reduce the mayor’s pay to reflect his or her reduced role when the city hires a full-time city manager“.

Let us propose this question to you. In a way, the City Manager choice can be related this way as well.

“Should your family have a 3rd car”? Yes or No.

Well, you might consider Jimmy is turning 16 soon and Suzie is already 18. Mom drives the car, Dad has his truck and now with another driver in the family, maybe three cars makes sense.

What goes along with that?

Well, the cost of the car, the cost to find the car, the gas, the license, the insurance, you know a few parking or speeding tickets are in your future, but what’s missing in our question?

Can you think of it?

There are a lot of cars in the world. Big ones, small ones, gas hogs, convertibles, trucks, semi’s, beat up pieces of junk, there’s even motorcycles. Which one best suits your needs?

See, voting for City Manager is nothing like voting for City Council, the Mayor, County Board Chairman or any other political office.

In those forms of government you’re privileged (by right) to get to know the person you are voting for. That’s the way the process is supposed to work. Like in the car example, you have “prior knowledge” of what a truck, car or van looks and runs like. As with the car, the people you vote for publish their picture in the paper, write up a little bio, print up some signs, a few brochures and then head out to pancake breakfast and farmers market events throughout the public shaking hands, enjoying syrup and meeting people.

You won’t have that chance with the City Manager.

In fact, you’ll have no say whatsoever in that entire process of who. YES, you want a 3rd car? Well, someone else is going to pick it out for you and you have no say what you get at all.

When the Committee held their first press conference we attended and after the conference had a chance to ask a few questions. The most important questions in our mind were very simple. Who is the person and how much will it cost.

If you watch the following news broadcast, at the end when we asked, “do you have any prospects in mind as far as who” it wasn’t just no, no we don’t, it was “oh heck no” followed by they will probably use a search firm to locate the right candidate.

To us, the very basis of our entire system and what we thought was an important question to ask, was met with that’s really the furthest thing from our minds right now.

The City Manager Topic Is Back. A Group Called A “Committee To Change City Government” Is Leading An Effort To Change Freeport’s Form of Municipal Government. The Group Met This Morning With A Mission To Place A Referendum On The November Ballot. We Bring You The Full Story. We’d Like To Know Your Thoughts. Chime In.

Posted by Today In The Port on Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Not only that but in an article written by Jon Staben which appeared in the Journal Standard, Jon brings up a very valid point when he states that his main concern is who will select and approve the new city manager. Jon states, “If the city manager referendum is approved one person would select and approve the city manager. This would put the control of Freeport’s future in the hands of one special interest group and I see that as an unacceptable future“.

He has a point. Not only, but how do we, the public, only become involved in part of that process? We’re only good enough to say we want a car, but we’re not smart enough to pick it out ourselves? What if it doesn’t fit my family, the room I need? The features?

So naturally it proposes the question;

Would the type of car you receive sway your answer now of even needing a car in the first place?

Of course it would.

Is it possible you could end up regretting the entire purchase altogether? Could it end with the realization that you were actually better off without the 3rd car?  You went through all that hassle and this is what you got? Maybe, but lets take it one final step further.

Say you want to get married, which is more accurately representative of the City Manager proposal/relationship anyway, do you really want someone else to pick your husband out for you? Your wife? Here you go, kiss this guy? Eeee.

See, we’d hate to see our community make a decision blindfolded but in a sense, it’s exactly what you are being asked to do. You just decide if you need this, based on only this information, and we’ll decide what you get, but you of course, you have to pay for it all.

For us, there are just too many elements here we’re just not OK with.  Too many things can go wrong here before we even get a city manager. It presents us with no alternative but to have to say NO to the City Manager proposal.

Our estimates, the people will have $50,000 invested to find the person (might be high) and a salary plus benefits of 55k to 70k per year, which is probably pretty accurate.

It’s always a funny thing to us. We take money, to plan how we would use money, if we had money. Seem’s a step too many sometimes. Maybe its time to re-think Freeport altogether. Maybe its time Freeport think WAY outside the box.

Maybe, we should do something crazy, like take the $100,000 we would spend here (and have elsewhere) and actually build something with it. Re-build something. Split it in half and build two things. Divide it into twenty $5,000 chunks and give it to 20 people who want to start a small business, a new attraction, a new destination for a certain age group and put our money where our mouth is, right back into the people, our neighborhoods and our communities. Maybe we can use the 100k to entice a manufacturer to come here and give us 25-50 jobs.

Want to see a community come alive? Want to see the relationship between city and the people bond like you’ve never seen before? Want common unity, want to see new businesses popping up, neighborhoods looking better, attitudes change in no time? Lobby for a re-investment in us.

We’ll put our money with the people any day of the week.

One thought on “OPINION: When It Comes To “City Manager” We Prefer Brunettes Over Blondes

  • February 22, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Enjoyed the article. Brings up several practical concerns i had myself when i discovered the question would be on the ballot last November. Who are you, dear writer? Have i looked right past your byline as i do so often with the mustard in my own fridge? It strikes me we have a thing or two in common. 😉

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