Councillors Support City Manager's Contract Extension, but Residents Criticize Him at Meeting

Cambridge City Council members unanimously supported the extension of City Manager Robert W. Healy’s contract in a public hearing yesterday, in spite of several critical comments from residents.

Under Cambridge’s Plan E form of government, the elected Council chaired by the mayor hires the city manager, who directs most of the daily operations of local government. Healy has been city manager since 1981. During his tenure, he brought the City out of a fiscal crisis, achieving an AAA bond rating—the highest available.

But residents expressed concern that this fiscal success cut into the quality of City services.

Lawrence Adkins, president of the Riverside Neighborhood Association, said that Healy’s administration has failed to institute effective community policing.

“More of the same doesn’t give us the answer that we want or need,” he said.

However, he admitted that citizen efforts to remove the manager are doomed to failure, calling it a “Don Quixote attempt.”

City resident Marilyn Wellons said that Healy refuses to bring Cambridge into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or to protect the City’s environment because of a focus on the bottom line.

Stash Horowitz, vice-president of the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, congratulated Healy on successes early in his tenure, but said that the City is now suffering from demographic changes due to rising property values and the corresponding increase in property taxes.

“Now we are suffering from too much of a good thing,” he said.

No residents came to the meeting to support Healy.

Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio suggested that Cambridge’s form of government, rather than Healy’s shortcomings, might be the source of the citizens’ complaints.

“This is a management form of government, it’s very defensive and fiscally oriented,” he said.

The councillors, who have met individually with Healy over the past few weeks to discuss his performance, all lauded him on his successful tenure and supported the extension of his contract for three more years.

Councillor Marjorie C. Decker said that Cambridge is doing very well compared with similar cities, despite budgetary crunches due to state and federal cut-backs.

“I worry about when the day comes that we have to look for another city manager,” she said.

At next Monday’s City Council meeting, councillors are expected to vote on the extension of Healy’s contract.