Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Charter Review and the Elected Mayor Question

The following was written recently by Charles Senf:

The Charter review commission seems to think that an elected Mayor would be a good idea and that the office should have powers to fire the City Manager, propose the budget, set the agenda, veto a proposal, appoint the Planning Commission members, appoint Advisory Board members and generally rule the roost.

Of course, these powers are not endorsed unanimously - even by the most ardent supporters of the "elected mayor" concept.

Indeed, they are not sure such a mayor should serve four years or if any commissioner should serve four years.

But the chair keeps reminding his fellows that such drastic changes "simply will not fly." That, taking the incremental step of endorsing an elected mayor without endowing the office with significantly greater powers may be the best way to gain support of the voters.

Notable throughout all these meetings and echoed again today (with Elsie Souza's admission that she did not know how the agenda was currently set) is the undeniable fact that the commission has not defined the problem beyond the amorphous need for "better leadership," greater "accountability" and similar phrases.

Absent a clearly defined statement of the problem(s), it is inconceivable that such a body can come to a rationale conclusion as to a solution (or two).

I suspect their anticipated recommendation to put the question to the voters will likely result in another defeat at the polls should the City Commission decide to place the question on the next ballot.

Surely the question will be raised by those debating the issue "What problem is this change intended to solve and how shall the change work to effect the solution?" Basically, the move to an elected mayor seems intent upon changing our "City Manager" form of government. We need someone to "work our vision," "staff has to know which direction to go in," are the sort of statements you will hear should you take the time to watch these folks. And, from the examples used ("Failure of the Downtown Density Bonus," or a "Charter level Director of Development to take the Planning Department under his wing"), one gets the distinct impression that this is a development- driven movement.

We have an increasing number of new arrivals who have significant real property investments, cash, lawyers and, apparently, a new vision for the City of Sarasota "A Dense New Urban City with Small-Town Amenities."

You can see the recent Charter Review discussion here , click on the Sept 26 Charter Review link.

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