An Easy Choice

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Our recording of this evening’s event was processing at the time this column was published, and will be available here shortly. Tomorrow’s event, which will be carried live on Zoom, will also appear on this site as soon as possible. A link to the live event can be found here.

Had any of the fine gentlemen who appeared at this evening’s public forum for city manager candidates been applicants in the last round, they would be serving as city manager today. So it is a rotten stroke of luck for two of them that they had the misfortune of interviewing alongside Eric Osterberg. Osterberg, who presently serves as assistant to the city manager in Klamath Falls, Oregon, did not fail to impress in any aspect this evening. He has the broad knowledge gained through service in municipal positions in Colorado and Oregon, but also the skill to apply that knowledge in the uniquely challenging environment here in Ferguson.

We mean no shame to Messrs. Raymond and Mai-Lombardo, each of whom came with their own strengths. Mr. Raymond, with a background in military, police, and now public education, would be well equipped to help with the struggles of our police department. Mai-Lombardo, who hails from just a few blocks from my home, has a depth of knowledge in this community shared by few, along with the advantage of having served in a community in which the black majority far exceeds that of Ferguson. As we said, had either of them applied in the previous round, they would have been hired. But they did not.

Mr. Osterberg recounted an incident in Klamath Falls when a small group of Black Lives Matter supporters organized a protest. Vastly outnumbered in a town in which just 1.6% of the residents are black, in a county which voted nearly 70% for Trump last November, they expected a small and peaceful protest. But a Facebook rumor warned that bus loads of antifa were heading down from Portland, and in response, hundreds of armed citizens turned out to oppose them. The situation was handled without violence or escalation, and gave birth to a series of meetings to bring equitable treatment to a variety of marginalized people.

In response to our question regarding transparency in government, Osterberg outlined a broad range of communication techniques to keep people informed. But more important, he recounted a project in Colorado, in which everything in the city was made accessible to residents, right down to the emails of city employees and elected officials. This would be a welcome change from the current administration, which throws roadblocks in the way of those seeking transparency, and violates the Sunshine Laws routinely and with impunity.

It is our hope that, with a permanent city manager in place, other errors in our government can be corrected. In the vacuum which has existed here for some time, Mayor Jones has spent far too much time at city hall, and exercised far more authority than our city charter allows. It is our hope that the mayor will allow Mr. Osterberg to perform the duties of his position without the constant interference which has hindered city government since her win, and will resume the duties of mayor as outlined in our charter. And our council, which has repeatedly failed to exercise its duty of oversight, will now have an experienced and honest city manager in their employ. We hope this will allow them to do their job better.

The other two candidates were both solid hitters, and would be a valued addition to any team. But Eric Osterberg is our Babe Ruth. We can think of no reason why Mr. Osterberg wouldn’t be the unanimous choice of our council, which should promptly hold a vote and extend him our invitation. There are situations where you are torn between the candidates, and extensive debate is needed to weigh your options. This is not one of them. We look forward to seeing Mr. Osterberg on Church Street very soon.