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City Council Again Fails To Elect City Manager

By Leo FJ. Wilking

For the second time in five days, the two top candidates for City Manager last night failed to win the support of the five-member liberal majority of the Cambridge City Council.

The issue came up late in the evening as Mayor Barbara Ackermann moved reconsideration of last Thursday night's vote that defeated her order stating that the Council would offer the position of City Manager to Howard C. (Neil) Peterson.

The vote on reconsideration failed by a margin of 5-4, the same margin that the motion had failed by on Thursday. As on the original motion, Councillor Henry F. Owens III--one of the Cambridge Civic Association-endorsed majority--voted with the four Council conservatives to insure its defeat.

Owens then asked for and was granted a suspension of the rules so that he could introduce a "compromise" resolution. Owens proposed that the Council select James Johnson as City Manager and strongly urge Johnson to hire Peterson as his Deputy City Manager.

Johnson, the black Deputy City Manager of Kansas City, Mo., is Owens's candidate, Peterson, the white former City Administrator of New Brunswick. N.J., has long been the choice of Ackermann and fellow CCA-Councillors Francis H. Duehay '55 and Robert Moncreiff.

Saundra Graham, the fifth member of the liberal majority, has indicated she is satisfied with the qualifications of both Peterson and Johnson. She is primarily concerned with the removal of incumbent City Manager John H. Corcoran.

Before the vote on Owens's Johnson-Peterson compromise, Duehay called the motion illegal because he said the Council has no authority to urge the City Manager to appoint anyone. Duehay also said that the proposed compromise is impractical because the position of Deputy City Manager doesn't exist in Cambridge and Peterson wouldn't want the position if it did.

Duehay also accused Owens of reneging on his promise at the special Council meeting on May 4. According to Duehay, Owens promised at that meeting, "If the citizens go for Peterson I will give my vote to Peterson."

People's Choice

The 38 participants in the citizen interviews on May 13 favored Peterson over Johnson by a margin of between four and nine votes, depending on whether one accepts Owens's report of the proceedings or Moncreiff's.

Owens and Graham were the only Councillors to vote for the compromise resolution. Ackermann, Duehay and Moncreiff, along with two conservatives, voted "Present," while the other two conservatives voted "No."

Owens immediately attacked the liberal trio who opposed him. "I think the vote of this Council clearly indicates to the people of Cambridge where certain City Councillors stand on this issue," he said. "Unless they can have this incompetent young Peterson, who doesn't have a track record, they won't play the ballgame."

Graham then introduced two resolutions which failed by the same 7-2 margin. Owens being her only supporter. The first would have offered the job of City Manager to James Threatt, administrator of the Model Cities program in Kansas City, Mo. The second motion urged the dismissal of Corcoran even though his successor has not been selected.

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