Monday, December 7, 2009

The Cohen-Smith Era

Politics makes strange bedfellows.  That was my pickup line to get Mrs. Politics to give me her phone number.  But I believe it was also said by a famous person.  (Or maybe not so famous.)  In any case, I'm confident that at least 3% of people recalled this quote upon learning that Doug Smith was appointed as the City Administrator and leader of the Cohen Team.

As with many things, I have thoughts about this matter.  First, the unavoidable hypocrisy from both Smith and Cohen cannot be ignored, and critics are right to point it out.  I mean COME ON!  YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING.  I would describe Cohen and Smith as no less than (policy) enemies during the campaign.  If there were 2 knocks against Josh, it was that he was too opportunistic / never finished anything, and that he was too closely tied to Moyer and the other Democrat higher-ups.  If there was another knock against Josh, it was that he didn't support city manager.  The latter was more of a strategic problem than a qualification problem--as Doug Smith chaired both the City Manager effort and Ward 1.  And since Ward 1 is an important voting block, there we were.

Josh made efforts to appease the city manager folk because he knew his policy stood to lose their vote.  I could be confusing candidates, but I doubt it, and I'm almost positive Josh promised to hire a 'credentialed administrator', assuring CM supporters that his CA would be just like their CM, and imploring people not to confuse Moyer's lack of leadership with a breakdown in our structure of government.  Focusing on the one department head that excelled under Moyer rather than the 15 that would have done better with a CM, Josh emphasized that only he could promise to retain the services of Chief Pristoop, as the other mayoral candidates would be subject to the police chief chosen by the CM.

By all appearances, Josh was Doug's last choice to endorse.  McFall was his candidate in the primary, and an endorsement from the ABC City Manager group was withheld until Cordle "suddenly realized" that a "change a language in the bill" was the only thing separating his lifelong view of the role of Mayor with the CM structure that Smith wanted.  I don't know if Doug would have ever supported Chris Fox, but I do think that Chris' support of CM from the get-go impressed Smith, as Doug was quite helpful throughout the campaign.

It seems that Josh was the only one not surprised by this appointment.  In Doug's own words:
Josh did surprise me by asking me to come in as city administrator. We were on opposite sides of the city manager issue, but I said from the time he announced for the primary that I thought he would be a very good mayor. The issue of city manager was always about structure, not about personalities.  And while we might disagree on one issue, that doesn’t mean we can’t work together. More importantly, there is a long list of things where we do agree.
Normally in politics I would suspect cynical motives: money or power.  In Doug's case, I am actually entertaining the possibility that he is most concerned with bettering the city.  WORA Pres. is a pretty pain in the butt job that does not guarantee future elective or appointed office, and Doug spent his own money on the CM issue which is like the ultimate proof of dedication to an issue.  In the end I think Doug just decided that he could better help the city as its administrator than fighting for an issue that the incoming Mayor would surely  fight against.  It will be interesting to see how vociferously the CM people continue the fight, and if/how Dough would support a measure that threatens his job and his boss' power.

Josh could only have 2 possible motives: political strategy or improving the city.   A quote from Josh's farwell letter to his county council constituents might shed some light: Politics is like water -- they both tend to follow the path of least resistance.  Rather than resist Ward 1 and the CM people and lose their vote in the next  election, have them involved in the process. 

I read a book once (actually I read it twice, going against all my bedrock beliefs) that talked about the "tyranny of the OR" and the "genius of the AND".  If you could only pick one motive OR the other, knowing Josh, you'd be forced to assign political strategy and get really mad.  There is no doubt that he created political value with this appointment.  The genius happens if Smith was appointed because of his political value AND his skills in running operations.  In that case, Josh is a good politician AND a good public servant.  


MikeDye said...

I've been mulling this over all weekend and having the same thoughts.
The quote that came to me was: keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
But in this case, Josh might really think of this as a win-win and not a way to marginalize Doug.

Anonymous said...

Awesome article. I don't think anyone (except for that petition) group) ever really cared about the issue in the first; it was just a way for Cohen to distinguish himself on an issue, and he did it as late as possible so as to avoid taking any Truly Controversial or principled positions. Cordle was for it? Then Cohen would be against it. But of course, once Cordle is out of the way, it would be nice, after all, to have someone take some of the tedious work off of one's shoulders! And..


brittkchancellor said...


Brian Gill said...

If anyone knows how to get rid of that spam let me know...I did the word verification thing but that's obviously not enough.

John said...

Just delete it!

It is an interesting appointment for sure. Will be interesting to see the other department heads and appointments and see how well they play with Doug.

Anonymous said...

Having read Doug Smith's bio - it seems that the many hasnt had a straight job in quite a long time. In my view, being "CEO" of numerous failed - dreamy "start ups" is not the resume booster of a serious individual. (maybe thats why he's had so much free time to run various civic organizations?)

We citizens deserve to know why he deserves such a high salary. What was his income last year? If it were lower than the $150,000 plus - he will now be taking from the taxpayers now - I suggest we have a problem here.

The idea that he will be making more than a US Senator does - in this new position - after he spent the campaign year decrying the horror of city contract obligations and demanding cuts across the board is the height of hypocrisy.

I like Josh - but this decision was B.A.D.