Thursday, September 22, 2016

Charles River: City of Cambridge Replacing City Manager

Charles River:  City of Cambridge Replacing City Manager

1. Introduction.
2. Finalists.
3. Analysis.
A. General.
B. DePasquale.
C. Ash.
D. Fetherston.
E. Summary.
4. Conclusion.

This report has been clarified / expanded by the next posting, at

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1. Introduction.

I have, as much as possible, avoided internal Cambridge, MA, USA politics.  Unfortunately, the City of Cambridge, along with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation are the two most destructive entities on the Charles River.

Cambridge adds to the mix a massive organization of “protective groups” with very clear connections to the City Manager’s people, especially the Development Department.  The "protective groups" look like a Company Union operation.

The Cambridge City Council has scheduled three key meetings in their search for a replacement for the current Cambridge City Manager.

I have attended the two which have been conducted so far, a meeting emphasizing public questions and a meeting in front of the Cambridge City Council answering written questions, but with opportunity for follow up by the councilors.

The only remaining scheduled meeting is an anticipated final vote of the Cambridge City Council at Cambridge City Hall, September 29, 2016, at 5:30 pm

2. Finalists.

The three finalists, taken from the announcement of the City Council related entity organizing the recruitment process.  They are:

Robert “Jay” Ash Jr. - Mr. Ash is currently the Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Previously, he served in a variety of roles in the City of Chelsea, including fourteen years as City Manager. Mr. Ash also served as a legislative aide to Representative Richard Voke. He is a graduate of Clark University.

Résumé minus personally sensitive information posted at:

Louis A. DePasquale - Mr. DePasquale is the City’s Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs in Cambridge. Prior to taking on that assignment, he was the City’s Budget Director, and also worked in other capacities in the City’s Budget and Treasury Departments. Mr. DePasquale is a graduate of Boston State College and received his MPA from Northeastern University.

Résumé minus personally sensitive information posted at:

Paul J. Fetherston - Mr. Fetherston is currently the Assistant City Manager in Asheville, NC. He has previously served as Deputy City Manager in Boulder, CO, and has held a variety municipal management positions in Connecticut. He is a graduate of Trinity College, CT, and received his J.D. from Western New England School of Law.

Résumé minus personally sensitive information posted at:

3. Analysis.

A. General.

Two candidates, Ash and DePasquale, communicated the intent to be strong City Managers.  Fetherston clearly communicated that it is his goal to function as the implementer of the policy decisions of the City Council.

B. DePasquale.

The 42 year Cambridge City Manager Machine has emphasized finance to the detriment of the environment, among other things.  DePasquale’s employment by the City of Cambridge slightly predates the 1974 commencement of the City Manager Machine.

DePasquale has had a key part in the financial brilliance of the Cambridge City Manager Machine.  He has excellent knowledge of the City of Cambridge, and made a magnificent presentation at the first, public presentation.  I did not stay for his presentation to the Cambridge City Council.  I would hope that he would remain in his current valuable function under Ash or Fetherston.

The reality is that the 42 year Cambridge City Manager machine has been very destructive to the environment, and has amassed a massive organization influenced by its wishes.  The destruction is outrageous and is likely to continue under DePasquale.  A video of the outrage on the Charles this year is posted at

It is inconceivable that he can be meaningfully considered separate from the outrages of the Cambridge City Manager Machine of which he has been a high level part.  That him unacceptable from my point of view.

C. Ash.

Mr. Ash is a Leading Man type with more than a decade experience as the City Manager of the City of Chelsea, MA.  Chelsea is about 40,000 in population in contrast to about 110,000 in Cambridge.  Chelsea is heavily blue collar with major heavy industry.  This is clearly associated with its direct access to the port of Boston and to Boston’s Logan Airport.

During the past year, Ash has served as one of the Cabinet Members, Secretary, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development  to Governor Baker.

He has major State House experience in addition to the current Secretariat position.

Ash is the one candidate whom I recall making a substantive comment on open space achievements.  He reported that he had created a number of small parks in Chelsea during his regime.

He is personally impressive, significantly taller than 6 feet, very well proportioned.  He looks like a Leading Man and has the demeanor of a Leading Man.

He looked the part and communicated a very great ability to make an excellent impression on behalf of the City of Cambridge.

D. Fetherston.

Mr. Fetherston’s relevant experience is completely in municipal government, four positions in Connecticut municipalities, one in Boulder, CO, one in North Carolina.  He has functioned, clearly, as top level management under the latter two City Managers.

Ash likely has some more experience.  The time difference, off the top of my head, could be his legislative years.  "Cambridge Day" reports Ash as 53 and Fetherston as 50.

Fetherston is medium height and weight.  The personal impression he gave at the public gathering was wonkish.


He was extremely comfortable surrounded by the members of the Cambridge City Council in their official chambers.  He was business like and communicative.  He spoke in an appropriately forceful but not excessive manner, while maintaining a normal tone of voice.  He consistently communicated as a person intending to step in, do the job well while deferring FULLY to the City Council on policy matters.

Ash responded in detail as to his intentions on a string of policy matters.

Fetherston responded to the same questions by clearly communicating understanding of all sides of the issues.  He gave no specific intentions as to resolution of the issues.  His position was that it is his job to fully gather and present information for the City Council to allow the City Council to make significant decisions on policy matters.

Fetherston made it clear that it would be his intent to learn the city and its government without any intent to disrupt a well functioning entity.

E. Summary.

One of the many real horrors of the Cambridge City Manager Machine is repeated lies of omission on stuff of which they have reason to be ashamed.  The really terrible stuff has to be dragged out of the City Manager, AND OUT OF THE WHOLE BUNCH of cheerleading groups which clearly look to his machine for direction, directly or indirectly.

This lying by omission constitutes lack of fitness for office, as far as I am concerned, another reason to end the Machine now.

Normal competent managers would not behave that way.  It is likely that Mr. Ash behaves in an open manner.  I do not personally know.  It is likely that Mr. Fetherston behaves in an open manner.  He most definitely made it very clear, in his business like, reporting, manner, that such is his stock in trade.

At one point, a member of the City Council unsuccessfully inquired into Mr. Ashe’s salary expectations, citing a possibly high number.  Fetherston made himself one of the group.  To Ashe it was a question directed to a Leading Man making a solid presentation.  To Fetherston, the question was unthinkable.  He was part of the group.

I have a lot of victories on major issues in the City of Cambridge.  My victories almost universally came as victories in which the Cambridge City Council chose my side over that of the City Manager and / or his friends.

I have had at least one victory on a zoning matter in Harvard Square in which the City Manager, after the City Council vote, destroyed a tiny city owned park to use it for the expansion of an adjoining business which could not expand under the zoning vote the City Manager had just lost to me.

I raised Hell.  The City Manager rebuilt that tiny park magnificently, clearly communicating by his actions an apology to the City Council.

It is comforting that Mr. Ash clearly spoke good words on open space.  That definitely is a plus.

I was in an excellent position to hear all of Mr. Fetherston’s comments in front of the Cambridge City Council.  I was not in as good a position in the public meeting, nor was I as able to catch all of Mr. Ash’s comments to the City Council.  There were no open space questions by the Cambridge City Council.

The reality is that normal human beings do not behave like the Cambridge City Manager Machine.  The reality is that normal human beings do not behave as do the Cambridge City Manager Machine and their friends.

I would certainly prefer words on topic from Mr. Fetherston.  I could have missed them.  The reality is that, in accordance with his so many answers, the key part of the question probably would be answered as one of policy for the City Council.

Fetherston is a professional.  He is not a Leading Man.  He is a skillfully communicative manager who would be one Heck of an improvement over the terrible situation of the last 42 years.

My very big fear is that the environmental vileness is very well established, both in the Development Department and in its influenced “activists.”  The dominant nature of the organization is overwhelming to an average human being who does not understand reality.  It is possible that Featherston or Ash could be conned from lack of REAL knowledge of the situation.  The organization really is not large, but it is well located and it claims it is large.

4. Conclusion.

One no, two impressive maybes.

Comments?  Please contact me at

My video on the first stage of the latest Charles River outrage may be viewed at

Thank you.