The progressive train wreck that has become our municipal government is hardly a collection of coincidences, as the mayor suggested.
It actually started years ago when the commission went from five commissioners to seven and proceeded to the separate election of a mayor. Distressing evidence of a massive city hall robbery indicates that it has finally reached a turning point.
Obviously, the changes to the structure and functions of our municipal board have not served us well. A former mayor-commissioner, Aaron Green, observed that when five commissioners share equal powers and change the post of mayor each year, it ensures that the powers given to the mayor cannot be misused.
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The form of government without a mayor and manager, which we had until recently, is shared by the majority of American municipalities because it works best for the selection and control of management, as has been noted in studies. on local government:
“There are compelling reasons why many of the country’s most prosperous towns and cities have adopted the CEO government rather than the ‘strong mayor’ form,” said a report prepared by the International City / County. Management Association encourages neighborhood participation in the political process, diffuses the power of vested interests, and eliminates partisan politics from municipal hiring, firing, and contracting decisions. ”
Nevertheless, our municipal commission insisted on modifying the charter to create the post of separately elected mayor. We, the former mayor-commissioners – Joe Little, myself, Green and Mac McEachern – were tasked with creating the functions of the weak mayor’s office.
We agreed, however, that a separate election for mayor, weak or strong, would ultimately bring no good and that the limits of power would dissolve. Like most of the city commission charter amendments, the change was promoted with city funds and voters dutifully approved.
The editor of Governance, a well-respected journal, wrote: “As a strong supporter of the CEO’s government, it is with pride that I can point out that two-thirds of Moody’s AAA-rated communities operate under the CEO. advice. form.”
But Gainesville took a different course and its ratings, borrowing and bond debt, previously praised by these agencies, sank under water, causing the costs of government and municipal services to rise colossal.
We have finally reached a turning point. Turns can produce smart reforms because they present real opportunities for the governed to change their government into a form that works for them.
Returning our city to its long-respected traditions would also send the right message to our disgruntled grassroots, the skilled tradespeople on whom our daily lives depend. A message that we will never again elect a mayor who can hire, control or lead managers who disrespect our workers will resonate through the ranks of every team that makes this city run.
This turning point can also bring new opportunities to elect commissioners who will choose our management together, and in doing so regain the respect of the governed. Commissioners will treat each other as equals by creating a new charter to install the form of government that succeeds in most cities without a separate election of the mayor.
Real reforms are difficult but not impossible. In the fog of our town hall which is collapsing behind which a majority of the committee has been able to reject the reform, limit disclosure and deny what is visible to all, a new opportunity now appears. While our city has succeeded in creating rolling charter amendments to extend commission terms and create separate elections, the rules can be changed by new commissioners or voters through new referendums.
Citizens as well as commissioners can make changes to the charter, although the commission made it difficult for the public to participate in the poll. Soon, in just over a year, several committee seats will open, meaning that a new committee will be able to create new amendments to the charter, unlike those designed primarily to keep the tiny majority in power and to control the management of the city.
Until then, be aware that members of the current Municipal Commission have publicly expressed an interest in giving even more power to the mayor through a charter amendment that would give almost complete control over the city and its offices to a new mayor’s office. It seems unlikely, but so do extended terms, new seats and increased salaries.
We’re not the first city in America to recognize top rot and vote to fix it.
Mark Kane Goldstein is a former mayor-commissioner of Gainesville.
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