City Managers & Cy Youngs

City managers are a lot like baseball pitchers.  You’re not going to win every political and policy game. But if you go 21-5 during the course of a year on important decisions you are municipal Cy Young Award winner.

And Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson, over the past many years, has helped Scottsdale win.  A lot.

He’s earned the respect of the business community, unions and activists.  That’s pretty hard to do.  Large special events appreciate his approach, in marked contrast to City Managers past.

With increasing confidence in city government Scottsdale voters authorized a one-tenth of one cent increase in the city sales tax in 2018 to secure road and transportation funds to aid the community over the next decade.

And last year, for the first time in two decades, Scottsdale voters didn’t just pass a bond and infrastructure for the community.  They passed it overwhelmingly.

Maybe our minds are growing more feeble with age but we don’t recall embarrassing city scandals or controversy either.

And prior to the pandemic the city’s economy was booming.

All of this doesn’t happen without a smart, experienced City Manager, which Jim Thompson is.  He doesn’t seek the limelight.  He gives credit to his bosses, the seven elected officials who vote.

His hire was a smart one by the City Council in late 2016.  It stopped the almost comical revolving door in the Scottsdale City Manager’s office and has returned the city to the can-do spirit that has typified its history.

Despite all of this another blog that comments on Scottsdale matters, purportedly run by an odd dude with a dubious win-loss record like the infamous Shelby Miller, recently opined about dissatisfaction with Thompson, even raising the specter of a potential dismissal.

Now if that’s not a foul ball, or a new version of a Scottsdale strike out, we don’t know what is.

While true that the city’s response to pandemic challenges has been sluggish, we liken it to the middle innings of baseball game.  Just because you might be trailing on the scoreboard then doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t win the game.  Over the next month Thompson would be wise to listen, very closely, to those on City Council and otherwise who don’t think the city has been doing enough to aid the business community or make internal cuts.

There is an increasing anger as the Scottsdale private sector gets decimated the public sector is doing precious little to share in the pain.  Thompson needs to understand this better and put a plan in place for more city cuts, and its benefitting organizations now.

In fairness to Thompson, 257 jobs already have been cut, in addition to freezes.  And Scottsdale has a bi-polar structure in which the City Treasurer reports to the City Council rather than the City Manager which can create challenges with decision-making.

But in the end Thompson and city leadership need to be on the side of the taxpayer, not bloated government.  He needs to be listening more closely not only to his bosses but to those on the very front lines who begged city staff for more help and creative thinking at the outset of this crisis only to gain response from a city, as we have said before, that has seemed concussed.

But every game, including the most important ones, are often won in the later innings. We have every confidence in Thompson and the City Council to do just that on a budget and financial approach that makes the most sense for Scottsdale’s challenging times ahead.  If there is friction so be it. It can often lead to the candor and conversations necessary for the best approach and compromise.

But for anyone to raise a question about Thompson’s future, well, they should be checked into the hospital for reasons other than those causing this crisis.

That business community many are counting on to help Scottsdale emerge from an economic catastrophe?  They will be outraged about any talk of starting over with a new City Manager rather than continuing the respectful relationship with Thompson.  The message to the marketplace would be devastating too.  We also have a feeling many prominent activists would feel likewise because Thompson has treated them with the dignity, they deserve rather than the derision his predecessors deployed behind their backs.

Since being announced as City Manager on December 8, 2016 Thompson has stood tall on the Scottsdale mound. And there he should remain, serving the people and City Council as he has with fitness, finesse, and fortitude.

We’ll leave you and baseball analogies with this:  Randy Johnson didn’t have his best stuff when he came in late to Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees.  After all, he’d pitched the day before and won.  But is there anyone else the crowd wanted to see in that critical moment?  Not a chance.  He wasn’t the only reason the Diamondbacks won that night. But they did win.  And Johnson ended up being the Co-MVP.