What I really want to write about is the favorable bond rating the city received again this week, resulting in the highest rating possible for short-term notes and a great interest rate.
I also want to write about the $125,000 the Seaport Advisory Council awarded us to fund our Harbor Plan 2012 efforts.
I'd like to write about the Marine Oceanographic and Technology Network (MOTN) event that took place Thursday at Endicott College's new Gloucester satellite campus, with more than 60 people attending and an energy level that was invigorating — or about the presentation that I gave about Gloucester at the kick-off of the Ports Compact initiative, where we are recognized as one of the five strategic ports in the commonwealth along with Boston, New Bedford, Fall River and Salem. The lieutenant governor, and the governor's secretaries of transportation, economic development, and environment are the co-architects of an initiative to pull together a statewide port strategy. They are in the process of understanding the strengths of each port, how we compliment one another, what investments are needed, and how to leverage the economic engine these ports represent.
But I am compelled to write about the news that has dominated this past week — management raises.
This administration has tackled pay levels for city management for the first time since 1999. It is unpopular and difficult to do, which is probably why it hasn't been done in so long.
I said from the outset, we are going to have a process and a methodology, and let the data drive the decisions about pay levels. Seventeen communities were identified with similar population, budgets, and within geographic reach. We produced a chart that showed the average high to the average low for each position in question. Then we simply placed the Gloucester positions at the midpoint of the chart.
This meant that the city clerk's pay was right where it should be — at the midpoint of the 17 comparative communities so the impact on this pay was minimal. But it also showed that the city solicitor (legal counsel) was way under, so the impact was much greater. Ultimately, it was the fact that the data drove the decision, along with other compromises that we made, that prevailed with the City Council for a total budget impact of about $44,000.
This is the management team that's brought you a better bond rating, better interest on our debt, a reversal in a 10-year decline of free cash, a reversal of multi-million dollar deficit spending, surpluses which are providing the flexibility we need today to invest in our school buildings, or blunt the financial impact of the charter school.
This is the team that works all day, and then turns around and works late into the night to support the City Council, its subcommittees and other boards and commissions. This is the team that is managing $75 million in today's infrastructure projects, and working to diversify our local economy and provide the support needed to succeed in the rezoning of the Birdseye property.
This is the team that continues to bear down on reforms and changes that residents have demanded, such as the removal of the police and fire chiefs from civil service.
How easy it would be to back off in the face of intense controversy. But we don't. We could say to the management team, as Councilor Verga has, "just leave."
Or we could thank the team, pay them a competitive wage, and keep them focused on moving this city forward. Hopefully I'll get back to writing about that next week.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.