In recent weeks, Davenport citizens have experienced quite a scare with the prospect of losing their city administrator Craig Malin. Peoria, Illinois, was courting Malin for the position of city manager, and Malin was giving the offer professional scrutiny. At first glance, one might assume that no serious consideration could be given; after all, we're talking about Peoria! And at no time did Malin accept any offer proffered. But in fairness to the professional realm of city managers/administrators, it can be argued that perhaps Peoria offers a lot more than Davenport, at least under current conditions.

A significant difference (at least to candidates for the position) is the salary allocated for Peoria's city administrator, which constitutes at least a 25-percent increase compared to Davenport. But money isn't everything. Peoria has a far more progressive urban plan than Davenport, and it puts its money where its mouth is, as evidenced by the city's dramatic transition over the past decade from a virtual ghost downtown to a vibrant, active urban center, complete with downtown living, working, and playing along a re-developed riverfront not so different from our own.

Peoria has the further attraction of being a city unto itself. It doesn't have to concern itself with the parochial issues or the intense competition of four other municipalities that surround it.

Finally, Peoria's city government appears to have more stability, because its elected officials enjoy four-year terms versus Davenport's two-year terms for its council. Granted, the idea of giving most of the aldermen in Davenport longer terms is simply unacceptable because the public trust normally associated with such a structure is practically nonexistent. Voters' only comfort is that two years' worth of destructive policy can usually be survived, even reversed.

But imagine things from an administrator's point of view. Progress happens in the first year, but can stall in the second because of elections. Most politicians, and Davenport's are not exceptions, worry more about being re-elected than decisive, effective city business. In other words, election years produce an ineffectual, lame-duck council, which means that potentially half of the city administrator's time on the job is marginalized due to the city council's downtime.

Add to that the myriad political agendas of a slate of candidates who are ultimately not qualified, or more importantly lack the capacity for the focused, informed leadership required to govern a mid-size city such as ours, and we have a formula for a stressful, inefficient governmental structure that begs any administrator to keep his/her options open.

So what is the public to do? We tell our politicians that if Malin goes, so do they. We finally have new blood, with enough youthful energy to establish the momentum we need to get back in the game, let alone ahead of the Quad Cities pack. Malin is just getting started with such projects as the 53rd and Eastern development, the John O'Donnell renovation, and the Figge Art Museum, to name a few. But most important of all, Malin is able to navigate the difficult waters of special interests without losing track of the taxpayers of Davenport. The people have representation in Malin.

But while the public is settling into a sort of comfort zone about the city's progress, Malin is negotiating all the political agendas against the needs of Davenport residents. And that's why we pay him the big bucks, no doubt. But is there enough money in the world to suffer Davenport's city council? Imagine a city with a council that also represented the public with complete devotion, and who invited special interests to partner with the city in meeting its citizens' needs. We'd be more like Rock Island, in that everyone would ultimately benefit from investment of resources, not just a few.

Davenport has unique and remarkable challenges that would offer any administrator a chance to build a true legacy. The public wants good, reliable, and progressive leadership and would respond in-kind. We have a good start into the millennium with Malin at the city's helm. Now let's elect the kind of support system a good man, with a responsive and willing city staff behind him, deserves. But first Davenport must get with the program and secure another contract (at least five years this time) with Malin that gives him incentive to stay and allows Davenport to move ahead without fear of ending before we've really begun.

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