The Dayton Daily has two guest commentaries on what we should do to get our of our mess. Obviously, something’s broken when the Democratic machine can’t beat a neighborhood leader despite their 10 to 1 money advantage plus incumbency. I’ve already weighed in that a strong mayor solution isn’t the answer– but here is how Ted Staton who could have stuck around and been our city manager had we not had a “strong mayor” with a megalomaniacal complex (Turner). Staton says:
The corporate board (city council), with the chairperson of the board (mayor) present, establishes policy. The board employs a chief executive officer (city manager) to carry out policy and manage the day-to-day affairs of the government. Most non-profit corporations use a very similar structure.
Cities all over the United States are struggling with serious issues. Perhaps it’s understandable to place part of the blame on how government is organized, but intensifying partisanship and gridlock, while simultaneously decreasing the level of professionalism by switching to a strong-mayor form, is not a way forward.
Of course, Nan Whaley (who wants more power) makes an argument for a charter committee to be convened so they can stack the deck to do as she wants- so she can be the HMFIC (if you have to ask, you weren’t in the Army- and you can change it to power broker, top dog, etc).
As the charter’s centennial approaches, the city commission is contemplating the formation of a charter committee to study more complex charter issues.
A charter committee can produce a much broader dialogue than just a discussion of Dayton’s governance structure and strong mayor. A charter review could provide an updated vision of Dayton for the next 100 years. Changing the charter could move us toward regionalism, improve tax structures and help the city meet its long-term challenges.
To be successful, a charter committee must include the participation of Dayton’s citizens, businesses, friends of the city and people willing to work toward a better Dayton region.
But, if we must bring a change- let’s open source the solution. Have a call for solutions from the community- let each of the authors defend their solutions- and then let’s present them to the voters and let them choose.
Right now, my proposition would be to eliminate the separate vote for Mayor- having the leading vote getter be the mayor until someone gathers more votes in the 2-year cycle of 2 and then 3 seats being selected.
Let’s do away with the primary altogether- giving the voters the chance to rank candidates 1 to 5, and using instant runoff balloting to pick each seat. As a kicker- we could include the sitting candidates as well- with the top five staying on. If you don’t understand instant runoff balloting- please read the wikipedia entry.
This morning, one more idea came into my head- and this may be the missing piece of the puzzle. To make sure the CEO/City Manager is leading the community and doing their job- let the voters vote on his performance annually: with a simple thumbs up thumbs down. If he doesn’t get at least 50% thumbs up he has one year to fix it or be replaced with the next sub-50% vote. The Commission also is granted instant termination rights if the vote is less than 40% positive. At less than 30% he’s fired instantly. We can also add that if it’s an 80% positive, the contract is automatically renewed for at least 3 years, 90% 4 years, and we can set up bonuses that are automatic with ratings.
The performance measures of a city manager- by 5 lay politicians has always been a problem – where personalities clash. This system could change the way the City Manager form of government moves forward for the next 100 years.
We don’t need any more committees to solve our problems- we need bold, empowered, professional leadership- and a much less political system for choosing the board of directors of our city. We don’t have to throw out everything because things aren’t working as planned, we just need to tweak the system a bit. It’s time to make the city manager accountable to the people and pay them well. It’s time to put them in the spotlight instead of the figurehead Mayor- and make sure we get the best possible leadership available.