We also received this email report on the meeting:
“Sharon Barnett from the League of Women Voters made a very good point that I think should be shared.
She charged the review board to think about the charter both in the abstract and in the particular. Currently, we are run by a “one power” system – the City Council. Ethically and legally, Tom Bonfield and his staff are subject to the whims of 6 people, which is the majority needed to pass anything on the council. Even if Mr. Bonfield and his staff know it is a bad decision, they still have to carry it out.
In a strong mayor form of government, there are two powers, The Mayor and his staff & The Council and their staff. Two powers, according to her and John Peacock, make for more exchange of ideas and the ability to get things done quicker. Currently, to get something passed, a councilman has to convince 5 other members to side with him or her – which statistically speaking is not very favorable.
The point was made by Mr. Bonfield that, though eligibility requirements for his position are not in the city charter, they are within the city ordinances. At the time, this didn’t really make sense to me, but I assumed that as long as it’s written down somewhere, it’s ok.
What Ms. Barnett said made me realize how wrong my assumption was, and how others may be thinking the same way. Today, any ordinance that the city has can be amended or repealed by a majority vote (6 people) on the council at any time. That’s without any voter say. By putting these rules within our charter, the only way they can be changed is if the people decide they can be changed. The difference in these two is huge!
Basically, if it’s in the charter, it is something that has been reviewed by the people and voted on by the people – thereby ensuring that the power to change and enact public policy remains with the people. Otherwise, you are placing a lot of power within the hands of six people who may or may not have the best interests of the city at heart.
It made me understand why a correct, modern charter is important, and I thought it would make others see why as well.”