New Role for City Council President IN A WEAK MAYOR COUNCIL-MANAGER FORM OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT
Elimination of Council Voting Districts 2 City Councilors, without districts are now similar to the Mayor’s position by having the same role of representing all citizens of the City Citizen voices have gotten lost as an unintended consequence in the process of eliminating of voting districts Community awareness and neighborhood influence has also felt diminished representation and voice Special interest are clearly the winners in this structure because they can amass financial and organizational resources for their purposeCouncil President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!
New Role for Council President 3 The Council President’s current role as backup to the Mayor could be expanded by Charter Amendment to fill this new communication and citizen engagement gap. This city wide elected official is the best person to fill this role because its already acts as a supportive bridge between the Mayor’s Office and City Council, driving interaction and communication. This position is best prepared to involve and keep current neighborhood citizens in matters of potential upcoming legislative actions impacting their community, neighborhood, and neighbors. The Council President could coordinate and lead in the reestablishment of “neighborhood councils” to empower and reactivate meaningful citizen engagement and involvement in local problem solving, decision making and actual governance at this grass roots level.Council President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!
Mayors New Role 4 The current mayor serves part time. some estimating three (3) days a week in a primarily ceremonial role. Under a new charter empowered executive role the mayor would be too busy attending to active participation in programs of economic development and in recruiting investment capital and job creation to have time for this heighten role of citizen engagement. The Council President’s important role serves as facilitor between the Mayor’s Office and the Legislative and Policy Making City Council insures effective communication and cooperation for achievement of city’s goals and work plan. This positions unique and innovative interaction and influence with citizens would be of great benefit to the city and serve as a model for charter reform to other cities suffering from the same dilemma.Council President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!
Charter Reform Efforts 5 The media, based on engaged citizens input, have recently become critical of City Council and Mayor leadership in the current Charter Review Process as it relates to citizen involvement. This has had the consequence of opening the “Pandora Box” leading to a broader evaluation of what has happen to citizen voice over the pass years as those representatives of special interests weaken citizen authority and participation in local governance, and what adds insult to injury is that they utilized the City Charter to accomplish their aim. Some political scientists opinion that “special interests” have too often been successful at convincing elected officials that their expertise and voice is of greater worth than that of the local citizenry. It only took the straight forward inquiry of seeking examples of their process for gathering meaningful input and recommendations from the citizen community to verify that this was self-serving propaganda.Council President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!
Citizen Input Auditor 6 The Council President as dedicated citizen listening post, engaging and soliciting relevant input and feedback at street, neighborhood and community levels with the aid of the Internet and social media as backup would develop new knowledge and expertise unknown and therefore not utilized in most cities. It would be the Council President’s responsibility to throw the red flag and cry foul anytime he/she recognized critical and significant citizen information as absent from City Council or the Office of Mayor deliberations.Council President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!
Recruiting Potential Candidates for City Council 7 The Council President could play a key role in community leadership development and recruit outstanding citizens to run for elected office. It is sad indeed to see in a city of 100,000+ city few if any competing candidates for Council and Mayor Offices. This not because all is well in paradise! Most citizens see the current form of government as not engaging or involving in anything meaningful at their community level and have a perception that their cannot make a differences. City Staff are not skilled in citizen problem solving and engagement at the neighborhood and community level because historically council- manager organizations did not value such involvement and saw it as potential political interference lacking the necessary subject matter expertise. The elite skepticism that drove out elected executive authority and created the council-manager weak mayor form of government refuses even here to give citizens a foothold even in their own neighborhoodsCouncil President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!
Delivering Adequate Representation 8 It is the Charter Review Committee responsibility to see to it that there are provisions in the Charter that provide for adequate representation of citizens in their governing bodies and process. This proposal for an expanded role of Council President will be a first step and go along way toward accomplishing this end. Council elections- at-large and elimination of voting districts has more or less reduced citizen engagement to a whimper. A few years ago the City Charter established a requirement that the mayor report once a year on citizen engagement accomplishment. This was not intended to be a “Campaign” public relations event where in the “State of the City Report” list the many Mayor’s accomplishment, which unfortunately it has now become. What was the intent of that Charter Review Committee? Would City Council and Special Interests Groups block the reestablishment of voting districts placement on the special election ballot, now that they have established a supermajority requirement for adoption.Council President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!
Who does this Council Care About? 9 The more diverse a community, the more important are issues of representation and citizen voice. Does the average citizen feel invested in the public good? In many ways representing reflects caring! Who does this current Charter and Council care about? Have lost the value of difference by focusing on the entire city? Have we lost the participative value of citizen interaction and influence? Who do we think fills this communication gap and political vacuum and for what purpose? Is this the democratic process that we as a nation have so long espoused? We think not. Does our Charter Review Committee have the courage to start the journey back to the future?Council President Closes Citizen Engagement 1/11/2012Gap!