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Why the rush to hire Tacoma’s next city manager?

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Dec. 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm with No Comments »
December 9, 2011 5:35 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Slow down, council members. Slow down.

The Tacoma City Council appears poised to hire a city manager Tuesday night – a long-term decision made in a few short weeks. The four finalists might be credible candidates for this immensely challenging job; the council’s apparent hurry to close the deal is not so credible.

This is as important a vote as most members of this council are ever likely to make. The city manager is the CEO of an immense organization with multi-billion-dollar budgets. He – all the finalists are men – could make the difference between a city on the move and a city just hanging on.

Has the council really thought long enough and hard enough about this decision? Would it hurt to do another week or two or three of detective work? Here are some questions that ought to be answered about anyone seeking to run this large and complex city:

• Is he a wide-screen thinker? Does he have a panoramic vision for Tacoma’s future?

• Has he been tested? Has he shown skill and creativity in dealing with a major crisis – like the fiscal crisis the City of Tacoma now faces?

• Has he run open governments? Does he hide the public’s business from the public? Is his first impulse to include or exclude citizens?

• How broad and deep is his executive experience?

• Does he throw himself into economic development? Has he demonstrated an ability to work with civic leaders to foster job-creation and business expansion?

• Is he a quick study? What does he know about Tacoma already? Has he roughed in any plans?

• Has there been any funny money in the budgets he’s written? Is he a cold-eyed realist about expenses and revenues?

• What’s his record of urban redevelopment and renewal?

• Can he say no to excessive demands from municipal unions?

• Is he more than a technocrat? Can he help build the city, not just keep the gears of municipal government moving?

• Has he had success overseeing police departments? Has crime gone down on his watch?

• Does he know how to hire and fire? Has he surrounded himself with highly capable department heads? Does he delegate successfully?

• How does he think Tacoma might be made more livable? Has he given any thought to fixing the city’s embarrassment of potholes?

No candidate is going to score 100 on a test like this, but someone who swings only a C-plus is likely to be a disappointment – and a huge loss of opportunity.

Have the council members done their due diligence? Have they talked to enough people who’ve worked with these four men? Do they truly know them? If the council doesn’t have solid answers to the questions above, it shouldn’t make this all-important hire until it does.

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