Wednesday, April 24, 2024

City Manager Robert W. Healy doesn’t run for office, but he’s a prime topic here every time someone else does. That’s certainly the case this year since reports of his $336,317 annual salary and $5 million retirement package and questions surrounding the settlement of three civil rights lawsuits against the city. In March, city councillors and Healy will decide whether to renew and renegotiate his contract, which ends Sept. 30 — and it’ll be a new City Council deciding and negotiating.

(Maybe not so new; the nine-seat council has drawn a single new face in each of the past three elections.)

For any voter who cares about how Healy runs Cambridge and how well the council has performed its oversight role, we’ve prepared a two-page guide on where City Council candidates stand on his performance and related issues. It’s compiled from various sources, taking candidates’ actions over the past months, comments at voter forums, answers to Cambridge Chronicle profiles (including as summarized on and so on and trying to discern a position from them — at the most basic, whether a candidate might be “pro Healy” or “anti Healy,” but also offering a brief but more nuanced take that summarizes and use their own quotes when possible to expand on that position.

There are two complementary pages, then, each or either of which be downloaded by clicking on the below image. You’ll get a color PDF you can forward via e-mail or print out. Feel free to print one or both pages, copy them and distribute them to other voters.

Cambridge Day also contacted each council candidate with the same offer to clarify their position if they thought it wasn’t clear. Several responded, although not all of their expanded comments were appropriate for the graphics:

Challenger Tom Stohlman said it was “appalling that the city manager and the City Council have refused to release the details of all the settlements and the ‘secret’ discussions regarding the cases. Despite having ample time to do so before the election, they have deprived the voters, the challengers and the rest of the city of the chance to be informed. If they continue to do so, we may never have the chance to learn from what happened and avoid the same outcome in the future.”

Challenger Jamake Pascual was also put off, saying of Healy, “No one has the ability or fortitude to stand up to him, not even our City Council … not one member of the City Council said that the people of Cambridge should not have to pay the bill for a city manager’s unbecoming conduct — and the council hired him. It’s time for a new system of checks and balances.”

Challenger Charles Marquardt said he wanted a city manager with less of a role in setting policy. “The job of city manager is to manage the operations of the city and we need to find someone who will do just that,” Marquardt said. But when Marquardt’s hoped-for transition arrives, “the transition must be well-structured and should include the current city manager … to capture all the experience he has from his 30-year-plus tenure on the job. Not capturing this knowledge built up over three-plus decades would be a loss to the city and put the new manager at a disadvantage” that could hurt Cambridge.

Vice mayor Henrietta Davis said simply, “There’s a good chance that there will be a new city manager within two years. The hiring process for a new city manager should be open and transparent and include a national search and community participation. Qualified inside and outside candidates should be considered for the position.”

Challenger James Williamson has a candidate already in mind: Jim Maloney, the school district’s chief operating officer, especially if he is a Cambridge resident.

Late update: Challenger Matt Nelson said Friday, “As leaders we should constantly adapt and learn from situations. That is a standard I hold myself to, and is one I expect that my colleagues on the council and the city manager would adhere to as well.”