Newburyport, Change to a City Council – City Manager Form of Government

The idea of a City Manager might go against the grain of our rich history of having a mayor run the City of Newburyport, MA.

True, but…

Every mayor has been well intentioned there is no doubt about that. But we are asking your average person to all of a sudden become a CEO of a multi-million dollar municipality. This is not only daunting but when I think about it in those terms, but it also is pretty amazing that we as a City would require that of anyone who is not professionally trained.

And we’ve had a 2 year mayoral turnover for well over a decade.

The Crow Lane Landfill crisis as a good example of what a lack of continuity could do.

From what I understand New Ventures LLC was chosen under one administration. However, when it came to having a contract with New Ventures (the private company that runs the landfill) another administration was in place.

The issue is an extremely complex one. We will never know for sure, but it is certainly possible that with leadership continuity Newburyport, MA might have had a contract with New Ventures LLC that would have been very strict and we would not be in the incredible mess that we are in now.

Or we might have had a different owner than New Ventures LLC altogether, wouldn’t that have been nice.

The 2 year mayoral turnover has been blamed on media scrutiny. But frankly, I don’t find that argument holds any weight at all. The Newburyport City Council has been under an equal amount of scrutiny, sometimes much more, but there is a fair amount of Council continuity.

I’ve lost track of how many years Councilor McCarthy, Councilor O’Brien and Councilor Fowler have been with us. And I’m also beginning to lose count of how long Councilor Earls, Councilor Shanley, Councilor Connell and Councilor Vogel have been with us as well. Basically we have 4 (out of 11) new City Councilors this year.

It could be argued that with the City Council under a council-manager form of government, the Newburyport City Council would by necessity become more focused and more serious and hopefully less “political” in the not so good version of being “political.” And obviously the diversity would serve as a check and balance for our City.

I think psychologically it might be hard to make a transition to a council-manager form of government (don’t forget, we would still have a mayor), but on a purely rational basis it appears to make sense.

And my hope would be that we as a City could begin to have some sort of dialogue about the possibility, because in my opinion our long-term survival may depend on a change of our current way of doing things.

Mary Eaton