I moderated the first of six election programs at the Catfish Club today. This event was on the pros/cons with the strong mayor system. Darling Donna Frye squared off against political consultant and Strong-Mayor guru Adrian Kwiatkowski. I’d call it a split decision but that’s because I’m increasingly ambivalent/agnostic on the issue. The audience, for the most part, seemed to go with Frye and the return to the old Mayor-Council-Manager status quo.
For me, I’m not convinced going back to the old model would do any good. Indeed, I’m historical a supporter of the Strong Mayor system–except for the fact that the current system is only a kinda-not-weak Mayor system, what with the simple majority veto override power. Strong Mayor 2.0 promises to right this mistake and increase the council from the oddly even current eight members to the rightly odd nine members with a two-thirds veto power. That’s all well and good.
Three things have made my support for waiver, however. First are the slew of stories (such as Don Bauder’s Reader exposes) on just how cozy things have gotten behind the closed Eleventh Floor doors of the Mayoral fiefdom and downtown interests, some of less than savory repute. Second has been accusations by Councilmembers like Donna Frye that, now that the Chief Operating Officer formerly known as the City Manager is no longer directly accountable to the Council, the typical response of city staff to council inquires is a polite, bureaucratic “drop dead.” And third, being a stalwart believer in Cicero’s admonition “show me he who benefits and I’ll show you the guilty party,” I’ve got to wonder why all the champions of Strong Mayor 2.0 (as well as the original Prop F) seem to reside in the moneyed towers of our municipality. If just a few bona fide citizen activist groups—particularly a few representing some of the city’s less advantaged denizens—where systematically stepping on in favor of this, I’d have less of the “oh my, there goes the power elite again” heebie-jeebies.
But I’ve still got an open mind on all this and wait to be wowed by the Strong Mayor 2.0 pro and/or cons artistes out there.
For now I’m just content knowing that Friday after next I get to return to the Catfish club for a nice piece of fish and a good side of debate. And it will be my birthday! I do hope they have cake….