This November, there will be a question on the ballot asking citizens to approve a change in the form of government from Mayor-Council to Commission Manager.
While we have written stories about this possible change in government in recent months, I still have people come up and ask me “what’s this form of government thing all about?”
The city mailed a letter to all the citizens in Eudora recently that explained many reasons for the change, but we wanted to try to help explain this in a little more plainly.
Q: Why is someone wanting to change the form of government in Eudora?
City Council Answer: In the letter to citizens, the City Council outlined how “it became apparent that a professional management team was needed to administer the affairs of the city government.” Later on they stated how it “will improve the ability of the City Council to work as a policy making team which is crucial for any organization to move forward.”
Editor Answer: The statements by the City Council are true. With that said, from my observations as a reporter covering the City Council for the last two years, this change they wrote about has happened over the course of the last couple of years already. Making the city Commissioner-Manager based by a vote makes it formalized.
The proposed change in government was brought about when the City of Eudora moved from a City of the Third Class to a City of the Second Class in 2010. This reclassification was done because of population growth in the city limits. This was not a change that someone just wanted or thought would “be neat” or “make us more important”, it had to be done according to state law.
Q: What will this change do to our city government?
A: The short answer: hardly anything. The longer answer:
1) We will no longer elect a “Mayor”.
2) Instead of having a City Administrator, we will have a City Manager
3) We will no longer have City Council members, we will have City Commissioners
Q: Why are they getting rid of the Mayor?
A: The city would not be getting rid of the Mayor, citizens just would not elect a mayor by popular vote. A mayor would be appointed from the City Commissioners by the City Commissioners. The mayor in our current form of government, presides over City Council meetings, breaks a tie vote at those council meetings, signs proclamations, attends ribbons cuttings and that’s about it. (Side Note: He can rattle his sabre loudly in an attempt to get something done like cable median barriers on K-10, but he has no official power to get anything done.) The mayor can sit up there on the dais during Council meetings and say whatever he or she wants to say but they have no vote unless there is a tie. A tie vote has occurred once since August 2010. The mayor’s position is 99% ceremonial.
Q: What is the difference between City Administrator and City Manager?
A: In Eudora’s case, not much. It’s a different title but the job functions are similar, and in Eudora’s current form, the Administrator acts as a de facto manager already. He gains no more powers by going from Administrator to Manager. He has the the same purchasing and personnel authorities that he has now.
Q: Wont we have to move to three commissioners instead of the five Council members?
A: No. State law says that a commission is to be three members, but the City Council will pass a charter amendment that will allow them to stay at five commissioners. This has been openly discussed and being planned on if the ballot measure passes. This charter amendment is allowed and has been used in other municipalities before.
Q: Won’t there have to be wards?
A: No. While wards are also part of the Commissioner based system, the Council will also pass a charter amendment so that the five commissioners will all be at-large commissioners instead of breaking the city up into wards. In future Commissioner elections, citizens will continue to be able to vote for the number of open seats on the Commission, just as they vote on the open seats for the Council now.
Statement: Money collected in wards only gets spent in those wards.
Response: There will be no wards. Taxes will not go to certain parts of the city, leaving others out. For the record, there has been never been any City Council member, the Mayor or city staff talk in an open meeting or interview about dividing the town into wards other than to ask the question about whether they had to do so. The answer they received was no.
Q: Won’t we have to vote for all new commissioners in the next election?
A: No. With the charter amendment that sets up five commissioners, we will not have to re-elect all members of the Council. In the current form of government, we would elect the Mayor and two City Council members in the next election. If this change passes, we will only elect the two Commissioners seats up for reelection.
While this change may seen as a major shift in our city government, in reality it is not. When the Council voted to move powers from the Mayor to the City Administrator a few years ago, we basically moved to this form of government at that time. All this does is make it more official.
A good analogy is the couple who have been living together in the same house for 15 years finally going to the justice of the peace to get married. It doesn’t change how the household is being run or anything else. It simply says the courts and government recognize that the couple is now in an official partnership. The form of government has been, in effect, a Commissioner-Manager form for over two years now.
Having followed the process and asking many a questions over the course of the last year and a half, I can confidently say that I support this effort and this will not change the procedures of how the City is run.
The opinions expressed in this editorial are the views of the Managing Editor and not necessarily the opinions of the staff or advertisers of eudorareporter.com.