Thank you, Mr. Milteer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The dirty little &uot;secret&uot; that everybody already knew is finally out in the open. While we understand it may have caused some city council jaws to drop Friday afternoon at their retreat, it needed to be said.

Thank you, Mr. Milteer.

&uot;It’s time to get that mess out of here,&uot; Milteer said during a discussion of whether Suffolk should switch to a direct election system for mayor.

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Milteer, a supporter of direct election, said that under the current system in which council members select the mayor among themselves, those vying to become mayor lobby one another by telephone to garner the necessary votes – and usually deny doing it.

While there’s nothing wrong with lobbying for votes, it’s the deals and alliances that could be entered into to secure those votes, done outside of the public eye, that are troublesome.

Such deals can result in projects being approved – projects that do little more than help a colleague’s re-election effort – that are to the overall detriment of the city.

While admittedly we cannot point to any instance where such has occurred, that is not the point. It opens the door for it to happen and that should be enough reason to stop it.

Supporters of the current system say the office of mayor is largely ceremonial, but they are deluding themselves. The mayor is the spokesman for the city. He or she has the bully pulpit from which to push and frame the important issues that impact the city. As such, he or she should be responsible to all the voters, not the six others on council.

A public hearing on direct mayoral election will be held this fall. After that, if city leaders move forward with the proposal, Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, would take a request to change the city charter to the General Assembly in January 2006 and we could be electing our mayor by 2008.

Council deserves praise for allowing this to move forward and regardless of the attendance or support or opposition at the public hearing, we hope they go ahead with it because it’s the right thing to do.

Suffolk is trying hard, with considerable success, to be a modern city. Eliminating this relic of 19th century machine politics will be a giant stride toward that goal.