Directly Elect a Mayor? Why?
Seldom is there a time when I agree with our old buddy over at the CM Press. This time, though, The-Brain-Who-Ate-Costa-Mesa asks some pretty darn good questions - some of which I had posed in an earlier entry. Based on his blog comments, it looks to me he's really more concerned about losing influence over the council than anything else. Still, his questions are good ones and I've provided a link to his posting here.
At issue is the apparent fast-tracking of the proposal voiced by former mayor Gary Monahan at the city council meeting on June 5th to move forward with a plan to directly elect the position of mayor of Costa Mesa.
Now, beyond the fact that Monahan obviously thinks he's got a lock on the job, the whole subject presents some interesting questions that should be asked and answered before this change is rammed down the throats of the voters in this city. Since it was obvious that the mayor and city manager were not surprised by the request on the 5th, one can only assume that there's been a whole lot of dialogue going on behind the scenes on this issue for some time. It's going to be very interesting to see how this shakes out.
I've thought some more about this and have many of the same questions the CM Press addressed in his post.
1 - Will this be an additional position or replace one of the council positions?
2 - If it's an additional position, will it be a voting position?
3 - What will the tenure be - 2 or 4 years?
4 - How much will we pay this position?
5 - Will the compensation package include retirement credits?
6 - What about medical?
7 - Will it be a full-time job, or part-time, like the council positions?
8 - Will there be term limits applied to this position?
9 - If the directly-elected mayor gets hit by a truck - or falls off a bar stool - and cannot fulfill his responsibilities, how will he be replaced?
10 - Will this position have greater powers and authority than the present position of mayor? If so, it seems to me that there is a huge opportunity for abuse of that power and for corruption.
After watching the council meeting when Monahan requested this change, it sure looked like Mansoor was all for it. If he's for it, you can be sure Bever and Leece will vote to put it on the ballot, too, regardless the public input.
In the Daily Pilot article that addressed this issue, here, our young jailer/mayor is quoted as saying, "It does give a little more clout on regional issues, and it gives us more of a mandate regarding the direction of the city. And so that can be beneficial." I read that and found myself wondering just how the directly-elected mayor gives our city more clout on regional issues? I mean, a mayor is a mayor, right? Does that mean Mansoor is less a mayor than one who might be directly-elected? I'm sorry, I know that question is a set up, but I couldn't resist. And what's this "more of a mandate" stuff? Mansoor and his cronies have been crowing like those darn birds that infest my neighborhood ever since the election about their "mandate", for goodness sake.
The last segment of his quote is very interesting, too. What do you mean, "beneficial", Mr. Mayor? Do you mean beneficial to you, who has been padding his war chest recently under the guise of raising funds for the Veteran's Memorial Project? Does it mean the person who occupies the directly-elected mayor slot would have more visibility than you've had the past few years? How is that even possible? I mean, your mug has been all over the media ever since you decided to become a Minuteman and save our country from the brown hoards.
It's too early for me to express an opinion on this question - there are too many unanswered questions right now. However, it sure looks like this was contrived to benefit one person - former mayor Gary Monahan. I may be wrong, but he sure acted like he was back in control Tuesday night and had every confidence that his idea would fly.
I noticed that Monahan handled this one just as so many other important issues have been handled - he requested it be agendized for a council meeting, not a study session. This is precisely what happened with the Immigration Cross-designation fiasco. You'll also recall the way he slid the closure of the Job Center into the agenda with a similar, low-key, almost whispered, request.
An issue of this importance should be agendized for a study session, where potentially contentious elements can be discussed, before being placed on the council agenda. This sure looks like another quick pitch by this council majority to implement something extremely important to all residents of this city without giving them sufficient time to voice their views.
I wrote a satirical piece about a fictional (?) land of Mansooria, in which a person resembling our young jailer/mayor becomes Emperor. It's a long one and you can find it in the archives of this blog. I found myself thinking, tongue firmly planted in my cheek, that I wonder why we should bother with the position of directly-elected mayor? Why not just withdraw from the union and appoint an emperor to govern?
Before I express an opinion on the direct-election of the Mayor of Costa Mesa I want to know why it is necessary. What changes will this make to the governance of our city? Why now? What was the event that pushed us over the edge to this decision? Why will this move make Costa Mesa a better city for all it's residents?
Another interesting element is the date that this subject will be discussed by the Costa Mesa City Council - July 3, 2007. Yep, they've managed to get it placed on the agenda on a date when many regular attendees will likely be vacationing and the more casual observers will be otherwise occupied. Pretty clever, don't you think? I guess that means we'll be having fireworks two nights in a row next month.
The direct election of the mayor may turn out to be a terrific idea. However, the circumstances under which it has been proposed makes one suspicious. Baring any new information that changes my mind, I'm willing to wait to hear more about this new position, and how it affects the way this city is governed. It's going to be a very interesting month...