Monday, June 14, 2010

Should the most powerful person in Tucson government be an unelected bureaucrat?

While most Tucsonans are busily bracing themselves for another summer or making plans to escape the heat, local corporatists are making plans to change local government-- in a big way.

The Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) has been working on a set of Tucson city charter changes that would make the City Manager's position much stronger. SALC's current proposal includes four changes to the city charter:

• Give the city manager greater hire-and-fire authority over some top city department heads and remove the City Council checks-and-balances authority.

• Increase the number of wards by two.

• Give the Mayor (who currently is just a figure head) more voting power.

• Change the Mayor and Council positions from part-time to full-time.

On the surface, these changes may seem innocuous, but they're not. Do we really want the most powerful person in our local government to be an unelected bureaucrat? Tucson has had a City Manager form of government for decades, and it's not working.

Tucson is faced with many challenges -- and opportunities. We need a strong elected visionary Mayor to lead us, not a strong bureaucrat who tosses out random ideas and lets the City Council take the political hits when the ideas prove unpopular.

Tuesday, June 15, the Tucson City Council will hold a study session to discuss these charter changes and other topics. The following Tuesday, June 22, the City Council is scheduled to vote on whether these charter changes should be added to the November ballot.

Call or e-mail your City Council member to voice your opinion on these proposed Charter Changes. The phone number for the Mayor and Council comment line is 791-4700.

Don't let business and development further tighten their control over our local government. If SALC wants to put their ideas on the ballot, they should collect voter signatures-- rather than just slipping it under the Council's door and encouraging their action.

Making the City Manager more powerful is not the answer to Tucson's challenges. Adopting a strong Mayor form of government is. Electing the most powerful person in the city assures that he/she will be accountable to the voters.

This article originally appeared in my Progressive Examiner column.

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