Archive for Thursday, July 17, 2008

Council debates mayoral terms

July 17, 2008

Now that Edwardsville has officially decided to become a city of the second class, Council members are faced with the decision of what, if any, changes should be made to how the city government is run.

In Monday's City Council meeting, City Administrator Michael Webb presented Council members with three discussion topics of possible charter ordinances to adopt regarding council size, election process and terms of office. Once a city decides to change its class status, it also has the option of adopting charter ordinances that would exempt it from certain provisions in the Kansas Statutes.

"The purpose of tonight is not to answer every question but to start discussions and hit topics one at a time," Webb said, adding that the three topics he chose for Monday's meeting where the "biggest issues."

Regarding Council size and the election process, Council members were unanimous in the decision to maintain a mayor plus a five-member Council, elected at-large, rather than by a ward system.

The problem of the evening came about in the discussion of the length of the mayor's term.

Council member Chuck Adams said he would like to extend the mayor's term to four years in the future. He said in two-year terms, it's harder for a mayor to put policies into place or work on establishing new, long-term programs.

"It takes a while to get up to speed," he said. "With a two-year term, you're either ramping up or ramping down."

Council member Patrick Isenhour disagreed, saying he was in support of keeping the term at two years. He said a new mayor should rely on veteran council members for guidance.

In agreement, Council member John Eickhoff said it was the Council members who make the decisions, not the mayor, so the transition period shouldn't be such a problem.

"We're our own city and I think it runs great the way it is," he said.

Mayor William "Heinz" Rodgers said that he could see the argument from both sides, but from experience, he said having to deal with constant elections was a problem. He said the job of the mayor is to be a leader and give the Council the guidance and tools it needs to make smart decisions. He said constantly worrying about the upcoming elections can take away from those duties.

Rodgers said the Council members' terms were set at four years because city officials determined that two years would be too short of a time to get past the awkward "spin-up period" that comes with every new position.

"I find it hard to imagine how someone can argue for a four-year term for the council and argue against it for the mayoral seat," Rodgers said.

Adams said moving to a four-year term of the mayor would put more responsibility on the public. He said it's "marrying someone for four years" and would require an educated vote.

"Good people are elected for four years and bad people are," he said. "It becomes the public's responsibility to pick the one, and I personally trust them."

Council members did not reach a decision on the issue and will take it up again at their July 28 meeting.

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