Sunday, July 24, 2016

What a difference a city manager can make

"Michael Bornstein seems to be a happy soul and seems to be happy with the job," [Barbara Jean] Weber said. "I suspect his stamina has not yet been tested."
—Ms. Weber quoted by Willy Howard, Palm Beach Post article titled, "New City Manager Michael Bornstein makes welcome changes in Lake Worth", 6/3/2012.

Today marks 1,570 days since City Manager Michael Bornstein was hired on April 16, 2012. There is nothing significant about 1,570 days except as a matter of perspective. Consider this, the previous city manager, Susan Stanton was fired on December 6, 2011 after 953 days on the job. Stanton's tenure was marked by divisiveness and a lack of outreach to the greater community. To put it bluntly, Lake Worth did little but continue being a mess under the tenure of Susan Stanton.

Under Stanton, the relationship between the business community and the City was strained to non-existent. The relationship with the CRA was contentious, at best. Stanton caused such a rift with our neighboring cities that only until recently are they no longer wary of partnering on projects fearing Lake Worth would be too much trouble.

Under direction of then-sitting commissioners (Jennings, Golden, Mulvehill, and an assortment of do-nothing mayors), Stanton gutted the code department and sent neighborhoods already on the brink on a downward spiral for almost three years. A local blog at the time, referencing the coming Christmas holiday season and the firing of Stanton, wrote:

"In this joyous season, I am celebrating the potential for renewal in Lake Worth which began with a bold move to clean out city management from the top down."

[and. . .]

"Yes, I know there are those who are disappointed to see Stanton fired but dwelling on one side of her performance while ignoring the other side of the story… is delusional."

One of the least remembered and bungled efforts by Stanton was the "Fire Assessment". Here is an interview NBC5/WPTV did with Commissioner Andy Amoroso after Stanton's firing and he references the failed Fire Assessment initiative by Stanton.

Believe it or not, there are still some that try and resurrect Stanton's tenure with delusional logic and misinformation. The romantic notion of her Golden Haired era would be enough for some sort of clinical diagnosis. Here are some initiatives Stanton supported:
  • "Day Labor" Center (succeeded)
  • Gutted the Code Enforcement Department (succeeded)
  • "Street Light" Assessment (failed)
  • Red Light cameras (failed)
  • Eliminate PBSO and restore the LWPD (failed)
  • Regional Sewer billing fiasco
Without doubt the worst policy decision by Stanton was being an obstructionist to thwart the CRA's acquisition of NSP2 funds. Thankfully that effort failed. She along with commissioners Golden, Mulvehill and Jennings did not want the CRA to acquire the $23 million available. It was only action by the CRA to apply for the funds that allowed many blighted areas to be home to new residents and families. Since then the CRA, led by Joan Oliva, has received national recognition for their outstanding efforts.
Michael Bornstein with Mayor Pam Triolo receiving recognition for the City's municipal golf course.
In conclusion, the form of government we have in Lake Worth requires a confident and engaged city manager. We simply cannot solve our problems without such an individual in that position.