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Madison debate: Vote yes for 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 a pro-change viewpoint from Jim Ross. On Thursday, 256 Today will publish the “vote no” viewpoint from Tiffany Knox. 

 

On May 9, we have the opportunity to preserve the quality of life in our community well into the future by voting “Yes” to adopt the Council-Manager form of government.

Madison, Alabama’s premier school system and growing economic vitality have made Madison one of the fastest growing cities in Alabama where families and businesses alike come to plant their roots. By most measures, Madison has emerged as one of Alabama’s premier cities.

However, the growth and development that has descended upon the city creates a significant threat to our future if we do not take action to assure greater accountability and professional management of our city government.

Under our current form of government, the mayor has no vote on the legislative matters before the city. Instead, the mayor is asked to run the day-to-day operations of government with a budget of nearly $80 million – whether they actually have any knowledge or experience managing such an operation.

As Madison continues to grow, we need a mayor and city council who work collaboratively to focus on the needs and interests of the people. And just like any sound business, we need a chief executive officer who is held accountable for achieving the goals and objectives of our elected representatives without undue political influence.

By adopting the council-manager form of government, the mayor would be elected at-large to be a voting member of the City Council with the power to set the Council agenda. The mayor would be required to work with fellow Council members to establish a vision for the city and make critical decisions on the city’s future. In turn, the mayor and council would hire a city manager based on their professional experience running a city government who would serve as the chief executive officer and manage the daily operations.

Just as our School Board appoints a Superintendent to run the daily operations of the schools, so too would our city council appoint a city manager to run the daily operations of government.

The city manager would be responsible for hiring department heads based on their professional experience rather than political influence. The city manager would be hired for an indefinite term and can be fired at any time with a simple majority vote of the City Council if the manager fails to serve all people and businesses effectively and efficiently in accordance with the Council’s policies. This high level of accountability and professionalism in the administration of government provides the assurance that our government will be more innovative and effective in addressing the growing needs of our community.

Independent academic research on the benefits of council-manager government over mayor-council is overwhelming. Council-manager governments have been shown to have less bureaucratic administrations than mayor-council cities. They are more likely than mayor-council governments to utilize sophisticated revenue forecasting and expenditure analysis techniques.

They are more likely to prepare multi-year budgets. They are 57% less likely to have corruption convictions. They have better financial outcomes, increased bond ratings, and stronger budget solvency than mayor-council cities. Voting “Yes” on May 9 for a council-manager form of government will increase the likelihood that our government will meet the demands of the residents of Madison.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to adopt the council-manager form of government comes down to whether we believe the people are best served by a government where a chief executive officer is accountable to the people on a daily basis or only to the voters on election day. Our current mayor and council have served us well. But we need to look forward to the future and make certain our form of government provides for a prosperous future under the growing complexity of our city.

Jim Ross is co-chair of Madison Forward.

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