A Charter Committee? Another failure of leadership.

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.

via Guest column: Current city-manager form of government preferable in Dayton | A Matter of Opinion.

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.

via Guest column: Dayton should consider strong-mayor form of government as part of broader discussion | A Matter of Opinion.

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.

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Well, the operant idea ought to be this: it doesn’t matter what form government takes, it matters if good people fill the offices.
That said, if the goal is to get more diversity in the commission (i.e., someone other than party pols) then run-off voting won’t work so well.  If you let the voters each have 5 votes, then the biggest voting bloc (the Dems, currently) will rank the endorsed Dems all 1 through 5–and they’ll almost invariably be elected.
The way to break the monopoly is to give each voter only ONE vote for a city city commission candidate, not five.  If all five commissioners were elected at once (say, 2 or 4 year terms) then in all likelihood we’d wind up with 2 Dems, 1 Publican, and the other 2 seats up for grabs among libertarians, greens, and independents.  If we kept the current rotating pattern of alternating 3 and 2 commissioners each two years, then probably there would be 2 Dems and 1 Pub in year a and 1 Dem and 1 Pub in year b.  In either case, the party monopoly would be diminished tho’ not broken–which seems fair to me.
As for “electing” a city manager, lots of expense to give someone less job security in a position that’s too much worry and too little reward to start with.


Unrelated to this, but apropo of corrupt city leaders…just returned through Dayton International Airport and noticed this AM that a certain giant picture was no longer on the wall.  I smiled when I saw it, and thought of your post.