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City Manager Michael O'Brien's 2007 Performance Evaluation
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 allocations balanced.

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 right decision.

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 and advancement.

· 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, litter, and … .

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 appreciated.

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 businesses.

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 housing.

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.

Moving Forward
Together

 

 
 
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