Why Dayton doesn’t need a “strong Mayor”

The latest “silver bullet” solution to be floated by the Republican party and a few others who think they already run this town is to switch to a strong-mayor form of government. Abracadabra- and all our troubles will be gone.

I say horse-hockey and here is why.

We don’t change horses anyway- preferring to ride the same names until we can’t stand them anymore. Case in point- there have only been two incumbents beaten in a general election (who didn’t win the seat in a special) in the last 20+ years. The exception were both when unknowns ran against an incompetent. Turner beat Dixon by 400 votes, and Leitzell beat McLin by 800. Both incumbents had been tarnished by election time- and had alienated the union power base that swings votes.

[I STAND CORRECTED] – Turner was beat by McLin in 2001- by a little over 1000 votes- as Turner was getting ready to run for Congress for a seat that was made for him.

If we can’t hold the people we now elect accountable for incompetence, why would changing the structure change things?

It’s funny- when Dean Lovelace couldn’t get elected the first three general elections he ran in- he wanted to change the Commission to a vote by district. Once he won- in a special election, you never heard another peep out of him about districts. He’s also been re-elected over and over, despite having cost the taxpayers dearly with his intervention in the hiring processes- and wasted time passing ordinances that got stomped by the state as soon as they were passed as law.

But- the real reason we don’t need a strong mayor comes down to the same reason John Patterson didn’t want one back in 1913- he was trying to take the influence peddling and politics out of a professional organization. As it is- the mayor and the commission are all careful of the unions- leaving the city manager to do the dirty work of negotiations. Put an elected mayor back in – and the unions will have an even stronger arm in deciding who they will bargain with. Right now- they have to have at least three commissioners in their pocket- which they’ve been able to do, make it just the mayor- and look out.

It’s not like we’ve had stellar candidates to run this city either by election or selection anyway. The city manager job pays $150K a year, the mayor gets $45K – even combining these two positions barely breaks $200K which isn’t even 2/3rds of what the Dayton Development Coalition pays their slick talking CEO. You want to make the Dayton mayor the most powerful person in the region- you are going to have to both pay the position- and give them a regional bully pulpit.

The real solution is to regionalize government, and then have a strong Mayor- paying one person to be Mayor- instead of having the current 28 or so Minor Mayors with their little fiefdoms. Do that- and you have a program worth considering.

Making the Mayor of Dayton more powerful is just one more attempt at diverting attention away from what’s really killing our city (greater) and not solving a single problem.

If the City is desperate for strong leadership- here is a better solution- stop electing Mayors- and let the four commissioners hire a City Manager/Mayor who has a vote on the Commission. And, when you decide to fire the Mayor/City Manager- the people who hire him have to go back up on the ballot. Now that would be interesting.

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