Wednesday, April 8, 2009
My take on the firing of City Manager Mike Hein is up on KUAT-TV's Web site. Also on tonight's show: Bill Buckmaster has fun with Democrat Vince Rabago and Republican John Munger on the monthly face-off. Vince doesn't appear enthusiastic about defending the decision to give Hein the ax, while John decries, of all things, partisanship. LOL! He's truly shameless.
In case you don't feel like watching my performance, here's what I said:
You’re 80 million dollars in the hole.
Rio Nuevo is tanking.
You can’t even hire a police chief.
So if you’re the Tucson City Council, what do you do to the manager who’s holding your troubled city together?
Simple: You fire him!
It’s not Mike Hein’s fault that
the city is caught up in the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression.
In fact, Tucson is weathering the current economic storm better than many other cities in Arizona.
But that small fact was evidently lost on council members Karin Uhlich, Regina Romero, Steve Leal and Shirley Scott, who gave Hein the ax yesterday.
I can’t say I’m surprised by Council members Leal and Scott. Those two want to fire every city manager.
But all this talk from council members Uhlich and Romero about transparency and accountability seems to be a cover for a personality conflict with the manager.
I’m not saying Mike Hein was perfect. He rubbed some people the wrong way and made some bad calls. But the council could hardly have picked a worse time to pull the trigger, especially since they don’t seem to have a real plan about what to do next.
For the time being, they’re elevated his deputy, Mike Letcher, to the top spot. Unfortunately, Mr. Letcher is set to retire in six months, so it doesn’t look like he’s sticking around.
So the next step is to look for somebody new. Maybe it’ll be somebody local. Maybe they’ll do a national search. Who knows? Not the council members I’ve talked to.
Once they finally find a new manager, it’s going to take her months to figure out how the city works.
That means anything that was underway—like downtown revitalization—has probably been set back by a year.
And if council members think that firing Hein is going to help save Rio Nuevo up at the Legislature, then I’ve got a rainbow bridge over the Santa Cruz to sell them.
Oh, wait—they already spent 15 million dollars on that.
Firing Mike Hein isn’t changing horses midstream. It’s shooting the horse in the head because he told you the water was getting deep.