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.

 

John Schulz

Managing Editor

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.

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16 Responses to Editorial: Form of Government change

  • So, John what you are saying is we are allowed to vote on something that does not make a difference, but something as important as the fire station, we are not allowed to vote. Seem’s a little backwards to me !!!

    • I want to make sure to clarify this does make a difference. If this doesn’t pass, we will still have to elect a mayor in the spring and continue on as we are currently doing. In reality, by passing this, you save the city $2400.00 since they will have to pay one less Council position.

      I won’t speak as to the fire station vote/non-vote. There are a lot of people, inside and outside of city government, that thought it should go to a public vote.

  • $2400 vs 2 to 3 million dollars, John, does NOT make a difference.

  • John, I was told that the fire/police station was part of what was approved when the aquatic center vote was approved, you know, in the fine print that wasn’t spoke of. Any truth to that?

    • Not having covered the city when that Aquatic Center deal was put in place, I cannot speak to anything that may have been signed at that time. The money for the Public Safety building is coming primarily from a 1.5 mill property tax increase that was passed earlier this year and some money set aside in the 2012 and 2013 budget. No one has shown any evidence of a tie in with the aquatic center financing.

  • NO the fire and police center was NOT part of the rec center plan or vote.
    The police fire center is a whole new problem of the city wanting something and just doing it and the people of Eudora can do nothing more than sit back and pay out the millions it is going to suck from us.
    The 2 issues with the new fire police center are
    1 Location . using one of the most valuble retail pieces of property in Eudora.
    2 Need. It is not needed , plain and simple.
    And for good measure. The people didnt want it. The only people who think it is a good deal are firemen police and the city officials who have been bamuseled to think its needed.I even know of firemen who dont think we need it.
    A simple nice building IE metal “butler building” out east or out south in a not so great commercial area would have been ok with 90% of the people. AND at a cost of say $150.000 instead of millions.
    This is waste at its finest folks.

  • Businessman- Please tell us what you would place at 10th and Main that would make this property so valuable? You have made that statement over and over again. What needs to be there in your expert opinion?
    2. Fire station- how is it that you are so knowledgeable about the current fire station and their needs? Do you volunteer there? Have you done studies to see what the needs of the city are for Fire and EMS coverage? Or is this something you just don’t like.
    3. The people- You say the people don’t want it. Ok how many people? If it is the 90% you state then why not do something about it rather than claim facts and numbers that I bet are only real in your “special world”. I even agree that the city does not need the new station now, but if it is in the city plan to expand services then yes it will be a need. I would also say that the best place to build it is 10th and Main.
    So please share with me what do you want to happen at 10th and Main, and why do you believe the fire department does not need a new building?

  • I would love to see a retail store or stores go in at 10th and main. It is the entrance to the downtown district and should be kept for commercial use only.
    This was in the plans when Cheryl was the city admin and time was spent looking at what it should be and how to set it up. I was involved with this whole plan and the investigation into if it was something that would work, and it was.
    I could care less now, just want others who live here and plan on staying here to have a chance at something good for the city , not just a few city servants.
    So to answer your questions, YES sir i was part of the plan from the get go to make downtown a destination and keep the city fire police center out of there. The paln was to make downtown something special if possible. The state was behind it and so were we and the businesses.
    You should spend some time yourselves in some of the focus groups and lokks ahead to the future of Eudora if you plan on staying. I am not staying, so i just don`t care any more.

  • It appears that the issue here is that this new Public Saftey Building was never put on the ballot. Yes, it was discussed at the public meetings, but fell on deaf ears.
    The city leaders went forward without any regards to what the people of Eudora had to say. It’s apparent that Eudora already has a Commission-Manager form of government in place, so why even bother putting this on the ballot? Do your homework people, there is more to this change of government that you should know before deciding to vote yes or no ….

  • Amen Brutal Honesty, very well stated. We should ALL wake up and take a stand on this. We have this right, lets not waive this.

  • Businessman, you have got to be kidding me…again. First of all, you didn’t answer all of Eric’s questions, you just went on about your own self business interests (I’m seeing a pattern). Secondly, lest we forget how many businesses are on 10th street and how they are doing. Casa Agave closed, those lovely car dealers and auto shops really bring value up, and oh yeah, a taxidermist… real charm. Maybe it’s not as great of a location as you want to think it is.
    You’re a business man, if it was such a gold mine, why didn’t you jump at the opportunity to put a business there before its fate was decided?
    But here is what really bothers me, aside from the fact you’re moving and want everyone to know about it. You somehow think that making this investment in your public services is not a step towards preparing for the future. How can this new building not be “looking ahead?” Don’t you see the city is expanding services so Eudora can grow??? These services, not only police and fire, but your water and electric, make Eudora a safer and more desirable place to live. I can see that these services are not in line with your needs as a business man, hence you’re leaving for a larger town with better business interest and full time fire and police protection.
    Eudora is investing to trying to keep up with the competition ( Baldwin, Desoto, Tongi, Dare I say Lawrence?) All larger communities with better city services trying to pull people away from living in Eudora. Part of what makes Eudora great is that it IS a Bedroom community, but, as you know, where the people are, that’s where the businesses are. And people want city services! Services that Eudora has fallen behind in. These are nothing more than growing pains my friend.
    The last thing I want to point out, which everyone seems to have forgotten, is that the public safety building is not the only building going on this site! Plans are for a new school administration offices and a new expanded township library. 10th and main may not be good for business, but it will be great for the community and the services it provides.

  • Laughing again,
    Excellent post….

  • I see these topics at hand are somewhat like the tasteless political ads shown or should I say shoved down our throats on a three minute time limit on tv. Each one of you has a valid point. It seems some people get a bit testy when the topic of need arises for the public safety building etal. In all honesty public safety is a top need for our fellow citizens, but at what cost? A nice Butler building would be a cost effective solution say at laws field, in the center of town. A new School admin. building and library on the east side of the construction sight with possible retail sites at tenth and main would be nice too. A parking lot where the library now sits could work for the CPA picnic. Bottom line is without letting the public speak as in a proper vote is a slap in the face to all of us. Perhaps Businessman or Laughing Again one of you might have an answer to my question. Does it not require a public vote for a community to undertake an endeavor that will cost over a million dollars? It seems that a little over two hundred years ago in Boston people let it be known no taxation without representation..

  • I digress….
    1) ok really, 15th and church???? If there is one place in town that is attracting business, that’s the spot, and you want to put the buildings there? Businessman can even agree with me on this! Great location, I agree, but I think the city has plans to develop it in the future.
    2) i agree with you, if people wanted a ballot vote, well it should have happened! (and could have happened) But why did it take construction to start to cause all this uproar now? This has been in the works for at least two years! Democracy is a responsibility, not a right. It’s your duty to stay informed. The Eudora reporter tries with all his might to help you. Yet, Ignorance is not an excuse. Have you been going to your public city council meetings?
    3) Answer to your question, No it does not take a public vote to spend money. You did that when you elected your city council members (soon to be commissioners mind you). By electing them, you gave them the right to delegate how the city spends its money. Public votes are usually the act of a city council undecided and trying to save face for next election. (incase its unpopular) We will know in the spring (smily face).
    4) If you voted for a city council member, then you have representation….they represented you when they chose to spend the money to build this building and when they chose to raise the mill to pay for it. Boston…really, totally different.

  • One quick note about cities taking our people or city services.
    DeSoto closed the police department and went to a new set up to which they call Jo Co Sherriff dept for law enforcement now.
    From the feedback i am getting its great and saving the city millions.
    As for the 10th and Main area.
    You have to take charge ( city admin ) and set a code of Whats going to be commercial and how are you going to enforce it. This administration is just doing anything anyplace and thats what is pissing people off.
    7 years ago we all got together , did the homeowrk in focus groups, got the state involved on what the city was going to do to improve its image and set the goals for 2030 and this administration is doing 120% the oposite in every single aspet.
    I and many others have tried to help them and its useless as you know what. I and the others have given up.
    All i have to say is this final statement.
    Mark my words, you people of Eudora are going to see an increase in your tax bill on your homes of no less than $500.00 a year from here on out. You are going to see a mosh posh set up of business , residential structures that are a joke.
    Your school district is going to max out the mill increases , every year to the max alowed by the state of kansas as they have for the last 17 .
    You might see an even higher utility rate cost growth than what we re seeing now at 50% a year or more.
    You will for sure see your city fail if the form of goverment change happens in this next vote.
    I enjoy good conversation, but i,m done with Eudora.
    . . .Thank you and good bye.

  • I dont ever remember Desoto having a police Dept… So ya Im sure they have saved alot of money over the years by calling the Johnson County Sheriff for help. I dont think we want to use Desoto as a model of what Eudora should be.