Dissecting NBM arguments

A Charlie Fairchild press release is very predictable. If he attempts to defend his positions and those of his PAC, then you will find weak arguments filled with half-truths, points taken out of context and statement made to evoke fear and distrust….all of which can be dissected with simple logic and facts.

FAIRCHILD/NBM POINT ONE* A Strong Mayor form of government puts too much power in the hands of one person and opens the door to Special Interests controlling City Hall through cronyism and patronage.

This argument could be used by the pro-charter side to argue why an unaccountable city manager and city staff is dangerous.

The current system depends on currying favor with staff. One only has to look back at the Airport Hotel Lease – that was blasted by the auditors for putting too much power in the hands of the city staff: “The City Council extended broad discretion and authority to City Management to develop a process of leasing such property. At the end of that process, too much reliance was placed upon just one or two individuals to accomplish the objective.” (Exact quote from the report summary)

As far as cronyism and patronage, look at how the city attorney has been appointed for the past 40 years, Don Caton succeeded his father. Fleming and Wells were assistants before being named the city attorney. The city attorney position has not been open to outside applicants for four decades.

FAIRCHILD/NBM POINT TWO Accountability for day to day administration is lost because the Mayor will only be accountable once every four years at the ballot box and doesn’t answer to the Council at all.

The city manager under the present charter never goes before the voters. He serves a lifetime term, unless he wants a better job elsewhere. The city council has yet to remove a city manager. Where is the accountability to the public in this system?

Having served both two- and four-year terms as a city councilman, I can tell you that it takes two years for any elected official to get acclimated to the position and get programs in place. Four-year terms haven’t hurt the US president, Florida government or our county’s constitutional offices.

Lastly, the biggest misstatement is that the mayor “doesn’t answer to the Council at all.” The mayor will have a similar relationship with city council as the city manager does now. The City Council has the same powers under the new charter, except it doesn’t approve the city manager. The City Council passes all laws and ordinances. City Council still must approve the budget. It remains the legislative branch of city government.

FAIRCHILD/NBM POINT THREE The voter’s voice is diminished because Council terms would be lengthened from 2 to 4 years.

The very election of a strong mayor, who replaces the appointed city manager, gives the voters more voice in their city government. Under the present system, a voter can not change the direction of city government at the polls. His/her vote is greatly muted by a system that only allows him/her to vote for four members of a ten-member council. It is unlike any other council-manager system in the country. The voter has very little voice or power in this system.

Under the proposed charter, the voter elects three council members and also elects the head of the executive branch, the strong mayor. The race for mayor becomes more than a beauty contest, it becomes about platforms and ideas. The strong mayor will do something that no city manager has to do—go before the voters and defend his record.

The city manager has no objective evaluation process.

FAIRCHILD/NBM POINT FOUR A Boss Mayor will be able to make decisions behind closed doors and would not be subject to the Sunshine Law.

This is the biggest lie pushed by Charlie. Every local elected official falls under the Florida Sunshine Laws. The strong mayor will have to follow the same Sunshine and public records laws as the city manager does under the present system. No charter can exempt an elected official from this. The strong mayor will have the same decision-making power as the unelected city manager has today.

FAIRCHILD/NBM POINT FIVE The huge cost to taxpayers for an increased Mayoral salary and support staff.

The proposed charter doesn’t set the mayor’s salary or that of the new city administrator. Those will have to be approved as part of the budget process by the city council. Other positions can be shifted to provide support staff, but there is no reason to believe that the total budget will be greater because of a strong mayor….especially a “huge cost.”

FAIRCHILD/NBM POINT SIX Concentration of power in the Strong Mayor will weaken District representation

This point makes no sense. The council districts aren’t changing. Each district has its own representative as it has now.