Councillors Challenge City Manager
City Manager’s performance questioned
After receiving high praise last week for Cambridge’s AAA bond rating, City Manager Robert W. Healy Jr. came under fire at last night’s City Council meeting as councillors and a disgruntled resident questioned his performance.
The meeting began with a public comment by Cambridge resident Judy Johnson, who initially spoke about a resolution concerning funding transportation services for the elderly in the city. She then segued into commentary about the City Manager’s salary.
Healy is the highest paid municipal manager in Massachusetts, having made $336,317 last year according to a report by Cambridge Day, a local online newspaper. Under the most recently negotiated contract, the City Manager—who has been in the position for over 30 years—will leave his post with a retirement package totaling at least $5 million.
A verbal exchange ensued between Johnson and Mayor David P. Maher after he and other councillors asked her to speak solely on the policy order. Johnson did not comply with the request.
“If you pull the curtain back you will see that he is an ordinary man,” Johnson said, comparing Healy to the Wizard of Oz.
“You are out of line, and this is the end of the three minutes,” Maher responded, referring to the time limit on individual public comments. He then dislodged his gavel as he motioned for the next speaker.
Johnson immediately left the council chambers, stating “I hope this is on TV,” to which several councillors responded that the session was being recorded.
Councillors then put Healy in the hot seat, returning to his agenda items at the meeting for further questioning.
Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 was the most vocal participant last night regarding Healy’s ability to communicate with the City Council. He took particular issue with the manager’s report on Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s use of a public street as a parking lot.
“I cannot believe that you have prepared for us what [Enterprise] told you as the factual basis for your response,” Reeves said in response to the data presented by the City Manager and other city officials.
In addition to resolutions regarding snow removal and the condemnation of the death of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato, the Council introduced a policy order concerning the transmission of information from the City Manager to the City Council.
Sponsored by Councillors E. Denise Simmons and Leland Cheung, the policy order would require the City Manager to select a point person to transmit information to councillors as soon as violent crimes or other community tragedies occur.
“I want results, I want this just to happen,” Cheung said. “This isn’t like this is a new idea.”
Cheung told The Crimson that the City Manager has notified councillors in the past via e-mail, phone calls, or text messages, and that yesterday’s order is to create greater consistency and more real time communication about residents’ concerns.
“I believe the Council has to wake up,” Reeves said. “We’re sitting here sort of scratching our navel trying to figure out how to get this information … and despite scratching our navel, we don’t get the information anyway.”
The resolution was passed unanimously.
—Staff writer David H. A. LeBoeuf can be reached at email@example.com.