Let us elect our Mayor…

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

There seems to be real divide in perspective between those who benefit from the present course our city administration is on and the vast majority of us that have to pay for such a narrow focus of community benefits.

As most lament the many poor decisions that have been the hallmark of our local government lately, there appears to be real potential for change from the past course plotted, by a major reorganization of how we elect our mayor.

Over the last several months there have been many lucid arguments in support of why the people should directly elect their top leader and we will soon discuss with the local powers to be, such an option. The real question that attaches to this process is; will such change in the selection of the mayor directly by the voters, break the chain of events that have lead to the recent dissatisfaction with local governance?

Email newsletter signup

The answer is a resounding yes, but only as a first step in the greater recognition by a more active populace that fewer backroom deals means better local government.

With listening sessions by the city administration scheduled for May and June, the opportunity of the citizens to become involved is moving forward as it should.

The electorate will find a wider array of candidates available to them, if they are given the opportunity to directly elect their mayor.

Such change is also clearly healthy for the processes of a representative democracy and worth the effort such issues will take to make government more responsive.

With a growing interest of what happens in city hall by the electorate, a healthy dose of trust in the people to make their own selection for mayor bodes well for the process.

By encouraging the electorate to become more involved in the process, we can recognize real benefits for our republic and they should be fully embraced by all.

This single change might also dampen some of the more disconnected policies we have suffered from city hall, under the weak and divided council we presently observe.

With a stronger authority on council, legitimized by a direct mandate of the electorate, the many missteps we have witnessed recently by city management could be sifted out of the process.

To this end, the failed ideas and misrepresentation that have fueled so much of the unpopular direction from city management can be checked by a strong commitment to trust the people to select the mayor.

Under this legitimate selection process, local government could receive a healthy dose of nourishment from the process that can only strengthen local governance.

With the electorate directly involved in the process of selecting the mayor, democratic representation will function more as the founding father’s had intended rather than special interests.

Those who have been disenfranchised by the utter lack of response from their local leadership can take heart that this issue can restore some measure of recognition that local government should be more responsive.

The move toward directly electing the mayor in Suffolk, as done in most other modern cities, can only reassure the populace that as we mature into a more vibrant city, there will be more commitment to the true interests of the people’s business.

With the present &uot;good-ole-boy&uot; system, there is a concentration of power and influence vested in only four council votes to determine who our mayor is to be.

As such, it is no wonder that we have suffered such contentious representation over the last several years given such an antiquated system. This is further stirred by the power politics played downtown, especially from the city manager’s office to steer at least four votes on council toward narrow interests and objectives.

The founding fathers devised a remarkably simple method to reduce such forces by enabling a process that decentralizes the process and vesting as much power directly with the voters.

We must demand similar logic here in Suffolk, by the direct election of our mayor to restore these well-known benefits that nourish a healthy republic. There is more trust in government, when governmental actors place their faith in the actions of the electorate, instead of closed backroom deals.

Perhaps as we embrace this change in the structure of our local government, we can expand the effort to also insure that city government concentrates on &uot;government.&uot;

The city management seems too willing to tinker in the markets as venture capitalists, investors, and social scientists rather than to serve the base needs of local government.

When they meddle in the first issues, they always do a poor job at the last.

A &uot;strong&uot; mayor can snuff out these faulty efforts, before they even leave the lips of the city management.

Roger Leonard lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at RogerFlys@aol.com.