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Madison debate: Vote no on council-manager government

EDITOR’S NOTE: On May 9, Madison voters will go to the polls in a special election to choose a City Council-City Manager form of government or a City Council-Mayor form of government.
Today, 256 Today presents the “vote no” viewpoint from Tiffany Knox. A pro-change viewpoint from Jim Ross was published Wednesday. 
In Madison’s special election on May 9, I will be voting no. I will be voting no because I care about Madison’s future and the voting rights of its citizens.
The proposed Council-Manager form of government takes away the voters’ right to directly choose the person who runs the city.

A city manager is selected by the council and by the mayor. It disrupts the separation and balance of power by making the mayor a legislator and placing a selected individual into an executive position of power.

The executive branch is completely controlled by the legislators. The appointed executive would have no veto power to check the consolidated power of the council.

Finally, there are simply too many unknowns about how the Council-Manager form of government would function, and more notably, a significant lack of information regarding financial cost, despite inquiries.

Madison’s website even has a question about salaries of the mayor and city manager as a FAQ and the answer is “For both forms of government, salaries have not yet been defined”. Voters would be able to make an informed decision if there was a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis.

In the absence of such an analysis, voters should vote “no” simply because they do not have all of the information needed to make an informed decision.

The biggest question that resounds among citizens is simply, why? Why does Madison need a fundamental change in the government’s structure? I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer to this question other than shallow talking points. “For Madison’s future!” “Continuity!” “Best to fix it before anything is broken!”

I see two possible scenarios.

  • Scenario 1: Our current mayor and council are incompetent, so we need a change. (Why not just vote them out in the next election if they’re so horrible?)
  • Scenario 2: Our current mayor and council are competent. (So why do we need a change? Just elect them again if you want “continuity” of their efforts.)

Except those in favor of the proposition repeatedly cite one of their reasons for wanting the change is that it would help Madison to run more like a business– it would take the politics out of it. What they really mean is that a fundamental change in our government’s structure would take the voter out of it.

In both aforementioned scenarios, the fate of those sitting in positions of power are directly determined by the voice of the voter. It doesn’t seem like they like the idea of Madison’s future actually being in the hands of the voter. They want to take the voter out of the equation so their goals for the city can be achieved without interruption by the everyday citizens electing officials that do not support what they envision for Madison.

In conclusion, vote no to preserve Madison’s voter rights, and especially vote no because citizens have not been provided with sufficient information in order to make an informed decision.

Tiffany Knox is a member of Don’t Mess with Madison who opposes the council-manager proposal.

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