Maher in control is, in at least one way, very good, but what’s with McGovern?
What does David Maher returning to the mayor’s seat mean for Cambridge? Well, he has solid experience, good relations across the city and his very election showed he arrives with a strong base of power in fellow longtime city councillor Tim Toomey and newly elected members Marc McGovern and vice mayor Dennis Benzan.
This is a coalition that can make a lot of decisive differences quickly. That’s not necessarily a good thing, since this is a council that’s moved the fastest with the worst judgment, failing to ask fairly obvious questions and, based on a lack of expressed regret, learning nothing from it. (There’s a whole spectrum of conspiracy out there about how purposeful that is.)
We can still dream that this term will end the acrimony of the past two years, when there was so much bickering and undercutting going on that council meetings played liked the worst of reality TV. It looks a little less likely when Marc McGovern unleashes a diatribe against politicians for, of all things, playing politics with an election: “The gamesmanship that’s going on here is embarrassing, and it’s unfortunate. For new councillors who ran a campaign based on doing things different and not being political to play this game is outrageous.”
Especially for an experienced politician, it’s probably just as fair to imagine that councillors felt they were reflecting the will of their constituents in trying for a desired outcome rather than simply embracing another?
Did McGovern – in office for eight years on the School Committee – dream the dream of comity that much more fervently than the rest of us that he expected there to be no actual politics at work on the selection of mayor? No one wanted another 10-ballot, two-month process, but this was a disconcertingly violent show of anger in the pursuit of, you know, peace. It’s also at least the second time McGovern has expressed shocked fury at a process allowed for by the very rules these officials play by. Last year he irresponsibly said four or five councillors had “voted down” the schools budget when they actually just didn’t vote earlier than they had to.
Let’s hope McGovern, who’s usually as measured and affable as Maher himself, isn’t aiming to adopt Marjorie Decker’s hellfire-and-brimstone approach to governing now that she’s moved on to the state legislature – or that this isn’t his role in Maher’s coalition.
Instead, let’s reflect on Maher’s demonstrated skill as a leader, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill, and place faith in it resulting in a more reasoned, less embarrassing two years’ worth of meetings in City Hall. And let’s praise him for already bringing one monumental reform to the meetings he runs:
As demonstrated Tuesday overseeing the first School Committee business of the term, he’s put an end to his predecessor’s excruciating and endlessly distracting insistence on having each and every step in a conversation run formally via an address to the mayor. It’s astonishing what a relief it is to have Maher running meetings again.
Maher, at the very least, has more sophisticated ways of controlling the dialogue.