So the City of Durham has a program called STAR -- "Show and Tell Award Recipients." This program allows employees of the city to nominate other employees for what appears to be an employee-of-the-month program.
Let's hear it for the five STAR award winners for December 2006: Kristen Randall, Sgt. Dale Gunter, Lorie Schiess, Marion Hickock, and Patrick Baker.
...Patrick Baker??!? As in City Manager, self-proclaimed "CEO of Durham" Patrick Baker? Lemme get this straight. No one would ever expect for, say, Erskine Bowles to get selected for an "Employee of the Week" award at UNC. When a McDonald's restaurant picks "Crew Member of the Month," the store manager isn't on the list. I mean, this sounds like something Mr. Burns would do at the power plant in The Simpsons.
On second thought... there is a resemblance...
Now, I don't mean to imply that Patrick Baker nominated himself for this award, or even had anything to do with his own selection. And I agree with the nominator's mention of Baker's concern for the African-American male community in Durham, an often-forgotten group and one which Baker and Mayor Bill Bell have both been very supportive of, through the extremely well-intentioned (and politically 'tough' to take on) Project Strike, among other efforts.
But let's look at the big picture to better understand my surprise. 2006 was not exactly a stellar year for city government in Durham, and Patrick Baker's name found its way to the top of the pile all too often. The pile of proverbial crap this year got so tall, and thick, that heat built up and it just... burst into flames!
Of course, that ain't a metaphor, that's a brickbat-over-the-head reference to Durham's infamous Great Yard Waste Fire Debacle, which got the state environmental regulators a bit peeved at Durham over its decision to operate the facility in question without a state permit for, oh, two years or so. City Manager Baker got some heat (no pun intended) over the fire, perhaps because he received an audit from the state noting the issue, but didn't read it. (He passed it along to a deputy, who also didn't read it.)
Nothing puts out a fire like water, so good thing we also had the Great Lead In The Water Debacle this year, too. Reading that the City of Durham decided to omit selected data sent to the state really raises confidence in the good ol' water supply, eh? Must be some lead solder over at City Hall Plaza; all the construction could have shaken it loose into the pipes. And ultimately all pipes, both water and sewage, both the clean water and the crap, run back to the City Manager's office in the end.
So... a STAR? Seems to me 2007 will help determine whether Baker's star is shooting or falling.