There are few no-brainers in city politics. Nuance is king even when stiff-necked attitudes reign.
Here’s one sure bet: Keep Jim Riviere as Marco Island’s permanent city manager, or at least as permanent as our roller coaster politics allow.
Riviere has shown his mettle, merits, guts and lack of guile. I’ve never met him. We’ve never crossed swords, paths or words. He just does good things for Marco Island without hubris.
He shaves the budget, realizing fiscal responsibility is crucial, unlike some in City Hall who have treated penny pinching as a nuisance. He suffers fools and friendlies equally, a political skill seldom seen these days. Councilman Chuck Kiester is quoted as saying the title of interim or permanent didn’t concern him. “It’s meaningless anyway. He’s there until he quits or we fire him,” Kiester said.
Just for the record, so is everybody else at City Hall. Maybe there should be a reminder of that on a plaque hanging from the Blue Man statue.
There’s risk in praising a government official. Some of them see that as political currency to squander on pet projects. Riviere, being human and all, could succumb to that. All we have to go on is his performance to date. So far, he’s been a combination of dogged realist and homecoming king. His job-cutting, money-saving efforts alone have earned him the right to keep the job.
Council Chairman Frank Recker, a supporter of Riviere, is tough if not taciturn, incisive if not always sensitive and hell bent on reigning in the profligate spending of some previous councilors and administrators who were stuck in 2005.
Together the chairman and the city manager could be our new action figures — the R&R Team!, Marco’s own Starsky & Hutch, collaring bad laws and high taxes with a ’75 Gran Torino but no super powers. Add fiscally tight-fisted Councilor Larry Magel and the trifecta talent pool gets even better.
“In the past three months, Jim (Riviere) has accomplished a lot,” Recker said. “That includes a leaner managerial staff by eliminating five top positions. He (Riviere) has demonstrated managerial skills with the ability to work well with staff while making tough decisions.”
Riviere seems the man for the times. It’s urgent that he embrace the following concept: As the federal government hemorrhages money and sucks up power like a Hoover — the vacuum cleaner, not Herbert — our local leaders must push back. That means protecting local prerogatives, fighting federal forces’ creeping trespasses into our daily lives.
It also means pushing back at some local efforts to “fix” everything with more government.
Do we really need all our code enforcement regulations? Do we really need a massive urban renewal project on Marco? Should we look for ways to help local businesses, not smother them with slow motion permit procedures and grand schemes that have had mixed results elsewhere?
Isn’t there some way to simplify how residents pay for their water, rather than the convoluted tangle of today that requires Stephen Hawking and an array of archangels to untangle?
Civic progress need not be a trail of tears, but it’s not free parking either. Leaders must have the guts to know when less government action is required, not more. Riviere seems the man.
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Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.