Mayor should remain a part-time position

The article printed in the Mirror on Jan. 28, titled “Commission crafts mayor’s role,” makes no mention of the dissent of the minority on the Government Study Commission.

The decision we are about to make concerning the form of government in Altoona is a critically important one. In keeping with my responsibility as a commission member to do all that I can to inform the public about the process, I am sharing with you my reasons for disagreeing with a full-time mayor position and the mayor being a voting member of council.

The mayor should remain part time because passion is safer than ambition and should be removed from council as a voting member to preserve power in the people.

At the municipal level, government is simply the division of power between the executive and the legislative and the system of checks keeping those powers in balance, whether representatives be elected or appointed. Under our current form of government, council has the authority to hire and fire the appointed city manager, with the mayor included as a voting member of the seven-person council.

Voters, if disgruntled, are charged with electing not one but four individuals to bring about change. To better preserve power in the people over the appointed administrative leader of the city, the mayor should be given the power to initiate the firing process subject to council approval – reserving for the people the ability in effect, to call a vote on the termination of the city manager with the election of a new mayor.

A council removed from the mayor would have the power to override his or her decision at the risk of re-election in the face of a mandate of the electorate. Critics would argue the manager must be insulated from the whims of the masses, a point I can agree with on circumstance, but the elected power of the mayor would serve as a much-needed check of the manager’s appointed power.

Sustained progress can be achieved with administrative stability. Proposing that the mayor have the power to fire the city manager, subject to council approval, would seem to create instability.

However, giving council the power to hire the city manager, subject to mayoral approval, would provide a check over and a balance of the power to hire and fire the administrative leader of the city.

Without a voter mandate, the mayor would be reluctant fire the city manager knowing council would appoint the replacement, subject to the mayor’s approval.

Heather Jo Eckels Altoona