Council-manager offers more accountability | Letters | April 17
April 16, 2009 · Updated 4:17 PM
Mark Follett’s letter (“Changes won’t make our problems disappear”) in last week’s Review asked the question: “How is the council-manager system going to be more accountable, and further, how is it going to work around or eliminate these perceived problems?” The Review’s headline gives us a clue.
I would opine that the need is not only to solve the problems after they arise, but to anticipate them. The best way to do that is to look into the future as best we can. Our city does not do that very well. We are more reactive, less proactive.
As for the “fundamental flaw in accountability,” one can argue that it is the council’s fault that our operations are dysfunctional because it hasn’t done its own spade work and given the mayor its vision down the road and the course they would like us to travel.
Their difficulty has been getting current meaningful financial data. The staff is only now starting to install a cash-flow system for the first time, but it will take more than a couple of months to see if they can make it work properly. Remember, our council members are supposed to be our link to our government, but in practice that has become a one-way street.
The chain of command to make things happen in City Hall starts from the top with the mayor, city administrator, department managers, staff, with we citizens last.
My point is that with our current system, our four-year-term mayor is the CEO of our administration staff. She hires the administrator, and he reports directly to her. And, all the department managers report to him. Were we a council-manager form of government, the council would hire the city manager, who would have all the skills and experience needed to manage all the city’s departments, and would report to the council, not the mayor.
That puts a seven-person body basically in charge of the city’s operations, with a faster and staggered turnover period than the mayor’s four-year term of office. We would then be governed by a group of seven elected citizens, and with probably a larger vision of the future than a part-time mayor.
That would provide broader accountability to we citizens and give us a more steady hand on the city’s tiller. Today, the mayor doesn’t report to the council. So, she can pick and choose what, when and how she communicates with we citizens. Public comment anyone?
Does this answer Mr. Follett’s question?