We have separation of powers in our State and federal governments, with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. As James Madison said, in Federalist Paper #51, “ In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others….”
You five new councilors came into office in a special election because we do not have such separation on the local level. Our City Manager, head of our City’s executive branch, is appointed by its legislative body, our City Council. In order to get rid of Mr. Frasher, the voters had to change the makeup of the Council-and they did, just long enough to get rid of him. The process entailed so much drama, however, that the City staff was able to recall the councilors that fired Mr. Frasher, by careful timing of their recall election. City staff were then able to manipulate the special election by not issuing a Voters’ Pamphlet, keeping voter turnout even lower than the recall, to elect councilors that they hope will be sympathetic to staff.
The Council should not pay for bad administration; voters should be able to remove the head of our executive branch without punishing the Council. Most cities in our country have an elected executive Mayor-so much so that many of our voters don’t realize how little power our Council-chairman Mayor has. Despite what he contended in temporarily appointing 5 councilors, he doesn’t have the power to appoint a single councilor, or even a member of a advisory committee, while the City Manager has hiring and firing power over City staff, including our City Attorney.
This Council should appoint a committee to re-write our City Charter to make our elected Mayor the executive of our City. They should give him the same pay as our County Commissioners currently make, and no golden parachute or retirement. The committee should also look at paying City Councilors as well, because this Council does way too much work for no pay, which leaves only the incentive of power to attract people to the office. Money is a much cleaner motivation and will attract more talent. And they should look at mandating separate counsel for the City and the Council, as one attorney has a conflict of interest in serving both branches.
It is up to you. You can wind up paying for the sins of your appointed City Manager, or risk recall for opposing one. Or you can separate the City from the Council.