City Manager Michael O'Brien's 2007 Performance
June 25, 2007
City Manager O'Brien has continued his focus on long term
strength development rather than satisfying short term pressures.
I wholeheartedly support CM O'Brien's dedication to this approach
despite pressures for faster solutions from many and believe
that Worcester - businesses, institutions, and neighborhoods
- is best served from such an embedded philosophy.
CM O'Brien has also continued his focus on strengthening
all of Worcester's assets, most especially our neighborhoods.
His deep understanding that Worcester's greatest asset is
its livability has served to keep his energies and resource
By focusing on balanced and sustainable economic growth and
delivery of services our City remains an attractive urban
center in the present with a secure future. CM O'Brien began
his employment promising these things and we are now living
with the reality of these promises. From my point of view,
CM O'Brien has delivered as promised - remaining agile in
the face of changing conditions, new opportunities, and downturns
in the economy. Likewise, I believe that CM O'Brien's "drawing
the line in the sand" regarding FY08 budget wins my complete
support and is one that will survive the test of time as the
CM O'Brien has avoided dysfunctional relationships with the
City Council this past year. The modified Plan E form of city
government works best when there is a spirit of shared vision
and respectful engagement in the midst of spirited debate
and deliberation. I believe that CM O'Brien continues to live
up to the expectations of our local form of government by
providing highly professional expertise and drive throughout
his administration and avoiding cronyism and political influence.
With the Mayor's leadership and the Manager's skill (and despite
predictions of unrest in the Chamber), the Council engages
in dialogue based on respect and an understanding that our
City is best served by finding our way to "yes."
Therefore, the City Manager begins this evaluation with a
solid A+ for steering the City in the right direction.
Increasing effective neighborhood voice and neighborhood
empowerment remain key components to my public service. I
believe that an engaged citizenry with close connection with
its government will result in grounded priorities and feedback
loops for steady improvement.
Progress continues in our neighborhoods and the Manager has
increasingly been a strong partner in this progress. The Manager
continues to demonstrate his understanding, appreciation,
and willingness to allocate significant resources to redevelopment,
strengthening, and preserving the soul of our City.
Areas of particular emphasis for this Councilor are:
· Local diversity reflected in City government and
City-supported institutions, agencies, and programs - at all
job levels, including upper management.
Progress remains slow in this important area. It is understood
that progress is hindered by the shrinking of city government
positions; however the necessity for our government to reflect
the diversity that we all praise demands aggressive commitment
· Managed, local control for social service sitings,
programs, and accountability.
The Manager's recently formed Homelessness Task Force is
long overdue and its success not yet known. In the meantime,
the leadership void continues to contribute to divisiveness,
dissatisfaction, and fear on all sides of the issues.
· Reduced reliance on non-renewable energy and the
need to secure our energy future.
The Climate Action Plan released this past year demonstrates
a strong start to this effort. So too does the fast track
ordinance on wind power. That being said, it appears that
progress on appointing an Energy Manager and/or implementing
the many other recommendations of the CAP is slow. Energy
costs have seriously impacted our FY08 budget and there is
every indication that these costs will continue to escalate
alarmingly. There are opportunities for leadership and funding
and both should be aggressively sought and supported.
· Continuous progress in improving/protecting the
quality of life of citizens.
QOL includes a range of issues - most notably public safety
and public education, but a whole lot more, including emergency
preparedness, parks, persistent problem properties, pedestrian-friendliness,
Preserving base-line services in the FY08 budget was a must
and the City Manager did his job toward that goal. Also, CM
O'Brien's recent announcement of a reinvigorated CMET is more
than welcomed. The Manager's commitment to open space, his
support for a new urban park, the successful management of
geese in our parks, on-going KWC efforts around grime, and
the new Weed & Seed initiative in Main South are well
Managed and consistent enforcement of existing regulations
are key - whether it be laws regarding snow removal, overgrowth,
yellow-bag program, crosswalks, speeding, noise, entertainment
licenses, parking, signage, and
. QOL is a never-ending
battle, but the Manager continues to make progress.
· Local jobs, job training, and support for local
The City Manager has been clear that retaining and attracting
businesses is a key focus of his administration. There are
many successes to point to this year. City Square's delay,
while of concern, reflects well on the negotiated agreements
between the City and Berkeley. The recently announced Youth
Office is welcomed for many reasons, the anticipation of improved
opportunities for training, jobs, and business creation being
among them. UniverCity Partnership and the College Consortium
continue to invest their organizations resources to retain
and support college graduates and support local businesses.
The NRSA efforts are proceeding with success. Using CDBG funds
to encourage local jobs for low/moderate income workers is
a wise use of resources. Slow but steady progress continues
for SWIP and other Brownfield reclamation efforts.
· Affordable, quality housing, especially owner-occupied
Given the current housing slow-down and the problems of sub-prime
lending practices, the Manager will be challenged to make
significant progress in this area. That being said, CM O'Brien
has responded by supporting foreclosure prevention programs
through the NeighborWorks Homeownership Center while continuing
to support new housing development, especially owner-occupied.
The Manager gets a solid A for neighborhood achievements.
All in all, this past year has been an excellent one for
our City and District 4. The City Manager has kept focus on
the "must do's," effectively balanced needs and
resources, and set the stage for significant improvements
the next year. FY07, despite fewer employees and stretched
budgets, has resulted in important and necessary forward movement
of our City on many fronts. FY08 efforts thus far provide
hope for more. It has been a pleasure working with the Manager
and his organization.
One area of concern that I raised last year was the Manager's
ability to delegate authority. As I commented last year, "Strong
organizations most often have empowered and loyal administrators
and employees who move the overall agenda forward in transforming
ways. Now that the Manager is well educated as to the strengths
and weaknesses of the City and has most of his team in good
functioning condition, it may well be the time for the Manager
to evolve his role into more macro management."
I am pleased to report that, from my perspective, the Manager
has done exactly this. City Manager O'Brien has empowered
competent and creative leadership in his many departments
- individuals to respond to this councilor's requests for
service in both a timely and professional manner.
The Manager gets an overall score of 4.6 for his performance
in FY07 - CM O'Brien "consistently performs above and
beyond what is expected." This standard of excellence
is becoming the new standard of expectation for our City.
For this, the Manager receives my deep appreciation. District
4 (and the entire City) is a better place for his leadership.
I wish him continued success.