In 2004, the Seattle City Council approved the hiring of Jorge Carrasco to head the public utility City Light. Carrasco’s previous public positions included city manager of Austin, Texas, Scottsdale, Arizona and head of the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, California. The local media uses the word “fired” to describe his termination from these jobs, but in fact he was either pushed out, voted out or didn’t have his contract renewed by the city councils because of complaints not so much of his management “style,” but because his usefulness was over. Carrasco was employed by Seattle because of—not despite of—his “bulldog” style, to make the hard choices necessary to clean-up City Light and dump the riff-raff of cronyism and complacency, while stabilizing out-of-control utility rates.
He did this despite being one of the lowest paid in his position in the country. Yet this came with a “price” that should have been expected, but the local media, the Seattle City Council—and now Mayor Ed Murray—are too cowardly and hypocritical to own. Self-serving complaints from City Light employees about “respect,” pay and “communication”—all the usual complaints from employees too used to “good times” when they could work on their own “schedule” and not have to worry about oversight—apparently got the best of the mayor, and Carrasco’ raise was nixed. The mayor admitted that Carrasco’s current pay was compared to other similar positions was on the cheap side, and the city would have to pay substantially more for the next head of the utility—who if he followed the wishes of many of self-serving employees and a couple of hypocritical city council members, would undo years of cost saving and lead to rate increases.
Carrasco’s management “style” has been a source of contention, but there is no doubt that it was necessary to achieve what was necessary to do. And now that it has been done, it seems that the Council and the mayor wish to “appease” unhappy employees by replacing him. He’s done the city’s dirty work, and now it’s time for him to go.
Meanwhile, the media focused not on his very real accomplishments—that of the “big picture” of lower rates, more efficient operations—that tend not to get “noticed” because the customers don’t have anything to complain about. Thus hardly anyone even knew who Carrasco was until the deluge of self-serving complaints of some employees—especially concerning positions fill by other “outsiders”—after his large pay increase was announced, and then cravenly scrapped. There were also two mostly manufactured “scandals,” one in which he alone was supposedly “duped” by a couple of men posing as Native Americans wanting a haul of copper for a charity (the men were later arrested for fraud). The other was the contracting of a public relations firm supposedly to “polish” Carrasco’ image on the Internet, which I certainly wouldn’t blame his for.
Carrasco has been used and abused by local politicians who like his work, but publicly disapprove of his “methods” for obvious political reasons. The attacks on him have now taken a highly personal nature. He claims that the accusations of lost temper and “cowing” employees are exaggerated; it may be the case that some people find it hard to accept that a Latino is in such an important position, that they are indignant that he is not “conforming” to their stereotypes, that he has the “nerve” to run or tell them anything. He is an outsider in more ways than one.