The Localist Papers- Part 5: Passing The Buck
Part 5- Problem: Passing the Buck
Last time, we examined how our city governments are set up. Why is the consolidation of power a bad thing? What problems can occur?
Let’s start at the beginning: Each city has a group of boards and commissions (Planning, Parks, Human Rights, etc.) where city policy is created. Each of these groups completes studies and writes policy for the City Council to discuss. Meetings are open to the public, but there are so many groups that no one can attend all of them. There is no recorded video and the meeting minutes don’t get into details.
Once the boards and commissions have completed their work, they hand it off to the City Council to discuss in their working sessions. Here is where the real work is done. Compromises are made until there is a policy the whole Council can live with. This is why there are so many unanimous votes in the Council meetings (and why you see no real work happening in them).
Because the mayor is in on these working sessions, and has no veto power, there is little we can do to prevent policy we disagree with. The decision has already been made before we have a chance to argue our case. The city manager then must carry out the plan, as any employee would. There is no check on their power.
Proponents of a weak mayor/council or council/manager system will tell you that this diminishes the voice of the people. No, deciding in a work session before the people ever know what’s going on diminishes the voice of the people. The people still elect and can redress a strong mayor. The input of residents is still to be valued. This provides more protection for the people, as agreement must be reached between two separate factions.
We must have a strong mayor-council system to allow for veto power, and to have a real chance to redress our government. Next we will discuss Big Control. Stay tuned!
Entry filed under: City Government.