City Hall Reporters Notebook: Post-Election Shuffle edition
Mayor Christopher Louras said that it was sitting Department of Public Works Commissioner Evan Pilachowski’s idea to return to his previous role as city engineer and appoint former Mayor Jeffrey Wennberg to take over as commissioner.
Louras opened his announcement of the shuffle Monday with a display that backed up that story.
“Evan,” he asked, “are you happy?”
I suppose, if you are prone to conspiracy theories, you might try to argue that Pilachowski’s wide grin could have been an act. The glint in his eyes, though, looked pretty hard to fake.
“I am today,” Pilachowski replied.
Friday, Pilachowski stressed that he preferred being city engineer to public works commissioner.
“It was something I really wanted to try,” he said of his promotion last year to head of the department. “It’s impossible to know what the job’s really going to be before you’re doing it. There are a lot of parts of the job I really liked, but by and large I thought I could do the city more good as city engineer.”
Try as I might, I couldn’t get him to dish on the parts of the job he didn’t like.
It’s worth noting this will not be the first time Wennberg and Pilachowski have worked together.
Pilachowski was in the air pollution division when Wennberg ran the Department of Environmental Conservation. While Wennberg did not supervise Pilachowski directly, he said he was impressed with him and holds him in extremely high regard.
What about the water?
Right, now for the big unanswered question: Where does Wennberg stand on chloramine?
From the sounds of it, in roughly the same place Pilachowski did.
Wennberg said that he has a lot of “catching up” and “homework” to do, but that his understanding was that the “smartest and most cost-effective” move for the city was to keep disinfection byproduct levels down.
Should the levels come back up, though, or should federal standards become even more stringent, the city will have to change something to come into compliance.
“If there are alternatives available to the city, we should consider them all,” he said. “If it comes down to a straight choice of adding chloramines or paying federal fines ... chloramines will be the only option that’s available.”
At the top of my call list this week was the man speculated to be the swing vote in electing the president of the Board of Aldermen.
Alderman Gary Donahue, who joined the majority in re-electing President David Allaire over challenger Alderman William Notte, said he was lobbied “quite heavily.”
“I wavered on that a little bit,” Donahue said after the vote. “I told Dave early on I would support him. Then I talked to Bill and he had me convinced. My head tells me we need to start getting the younger people on there but my heart wouldn’t let me not vote for Dave.”
Donahue said he made no attempts at political horse-trading, and that neither side offered him committee chairmanships or any other inducement.
“I consider that a point of honor — nobody thought they could buy me,” he said. “I’m not qualified to be a chairman. You know that as well as I do. ... They tried to sell me on the points only, the good points.”
Donahue did say that he was surprised by the number of non-board members who lobbied him, though he wouldn’t name names.
“Really, it doesn’t make any difference to anyone whose outside the aldermanic chambers who the board president is,” he said. “Nobody threatened me or did anything bad. I just found it surprising that outsiders would give a hoot.”
I also asked Donahue if he thought the board members would still be able to get along after the sometimes snarky election.
“I hope so,” he said. “It seems like the young folks and the older crew are — I don’t want to say at odds. I sincerely hope we don’t go in that direction. I didn’t see that in my first year on the board.”
While Donahue isn’t the first person I’ve heard seeing the board divided into generational factions of sorts, I’m not sure I can see it myself. Sure, there have been some quarrels over specific proposals in the last couple years, but on all of the big-picture issues (infrastructure improvements, the recreation bond, the new hires in next year’s budget), it seems like the board members are all headed in roughly the same direction.
What do you think, dear readers? My email address is at the bottom of the column.
Tuesday, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce holds its March mixer from 5 to 7 p.m. at College of St. Joseph. The event was supposed to be last week, but was canceled due to the snowstorm.
Wednesday, the Rutland Planning Commission holds a forum from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Rutland Free Library on the upcoming rewrite of the city’s master plan.
Thursday, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is coming to town. The congressman is scheduled, as of Friday, to attend a Rotary meeting at 7:30 a.m., a “Congress in Your Community” event at 9 a.m. at the Coffee Exchange and a roundtable discussion on college affordability at 10:15 a.m. at the Community College of Vermont.
Welch’s office indicated there could be a fourth event and that a final schedule would be released this week.