Thursday, June 07, 2007

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 Jun
e 5th to move forward with a plan to directly elect the position of mayor of Costa Mesa.

Now, bey
ond 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 i
t 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 dire
ctly-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. Wh
at 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...

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Blogger Connected said...

I tend to agree with Mansoor that a directly elected mayor carries more prestige (power?) because the entire voting City votes for the Mayor, and not the other four members of the City Council. When the City voted for Allan, they voted for him as a Council member (which would theoretically be at a different standard than voting directly for a Mayor) and he ran against a gaggle of other candidates. The vote for Mayor would possibly be a showdown (Irvine style) between one side with another. More interesting. More battle. More hard fought earned. More "respect" from the other Cities. More prestige.

6/08/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, Geoff, Geoff..."rammed down the throats of voters"? come on, you know I've brought this up with each of the last 3 or 4 councils. Plus, the request is to place it on the ballot, precisely so the "voters" can vote on it! In March, several reports were generated by the Mayor, and several have been over the last 4-5 years, it's not an unfamiliar item to any Council Member. As far as vetting the Pro's & cons, we have until the election to do that, publically not at a sparcely attended study session. cont'd

6/08/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow in one fell swoop, I made a prediction of yours correct and got you to agree with your neighbor, what would've been the odds on that? It would replace an existing position. 2 or 4 years is determined by the voters if they vote to pass it. I expect pay is the same as it would be up to Council as it is now. Ditto compensation package...cont'd

6/08/2007 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Medical-same, same as council members, though I believe they are currntly considered "full-time". Term Limits up to voters replacement same as now, with a Mayor-Pro-Tem, basically, the same powers, he/she would not be appointing all commissions, etc. As far as skirting term-limits, which I still support, they were purposely not a lifetime ban...cont'd

6/08/2007 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and I believe the time away is amazingly valuable and refreshing. If you or anyone actually believes this is about a "pension" (which is based on salary by the way, of which even Sandy would agree is not much)please submit me for a major head-examination. If you believe this is a way for me to "sneak" back in, again, I am eligible to run for one of three seats in 2008, and then if...cont'd

6/08/2007 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I garnered 2 other votes of Council, would serve as Mayor. Running Directly, one on one for a seat rather than one of three would seem much more difficult. Regardless of my future plans, I have always believed this is a good idea and if placed on a ballot, we could find out what Costa Mesa voters think...By the way, peeked is better than peeped.G

6/08/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Connected, thanks for your thoughts. I hope my readers will slide over and use the link to your blog, Newport Beach Voices, and read your last post. You may be right - a directly-elected mayoral election would likely be more contentious - and fun.

Skosh, old pal, you've been "Pilotized". It's not necessary to break your comment posts down into 100 word bites for this site. Just gather your thoughts and let it rip! I do appreciate your clarifying entries, but no volume discount is available. I think you've provided readers here with a good overview of your position, and I do appreciate that. I also appreciate the spirit in which you responded, and your good humor about the "peeked" thing...

I do know that, even though you've qualified for a pension, it would be meager whenever you decided to begin collecting it. I do not begrudge city employees the negotiated benefits to which they are entitled - as long as there is value received for the benefits provided.

As I've said, I'm willing to wait until this issue gets fleshed out - maybe at the July 3rd council meeting. To get my vote in February I'm going to have to be convinced that there's a significant advantage for the residents of Costa Mesa by making this change, whatever it turns out to be. If, by directly electing the mayor, our city will be better managed and it's stature among the community of cities in southern California enhanced, I'm willing to listen to the proposal. If not, it's going to be a hard sell for me.

6/08/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skosh - you bring up excellent points - this will be up to the voters and aired for public view.

"Peeking" comment belly laughs aside, I also happen to be a supporter who thinks you did a good job on the Council. You'll probably get my vote again if you choose to run.

The medical issue troubles me, to be honest. The Mayor is a county employee, Ms. Foley is a name partner in a law firm, Mr. Bever is a businessman, Ms. Dixon is employed by Chapman University, and Ms. Leece's City bio is vague about employment. Regardless - these folks are part-time elected representatives, why in the world are they eligible for City-paid health care? That is ludicrous. The Mayor's own bio states that he "believes in lower taxes, balanced budgets..." So why is the City paying for Councilmember's health care? And when does that coverage expire? Does it cover family members also?

Maybe you can shed some light on this, and offer an opinion as to its appropriateness.

Looking forward to another grilled artichoke, cold beer and steak soon...

6/08/2007 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Planning Commissioner Eleanor Egan posted the following comment on a different post, although it seems much more appropriate on this one:

"One question that has not been addressed: Can a general law city such as Costa Mesa (as opposed to a charter city such as Anaheim) change its form of government to one with an elected mayor without express authorization by the State Legislature? I don't know the answer, but I should think it would be appropriate to know the answer before a lot of money and effort are expended."

Of course, Commissioner Egan has a good question. Hopefully, with any luck at all, this will be one of the may answered during the council meeting on July 3rd, when this issue will be discussed. It's such a logical question, and the City Manager tells me that the City Attorney has been reviewing some questions posed to her by our young jailer/mayor, that I expect it to be answered. Mrs. Egan is correct - if the change to a directly-elected mayor form of government be affected only with the approval of the State Legislature, we need to secure that first - before any plan to put it on the ballot and all the attendant turmoil that will generate. It wouldn't be the first time this council majority has fired before aiming. Thanks, Eleanor.

6/10/2007 07:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like term limits, voter approved elected mayor position does not require a charter. This has been in several staff reports over the past few years. While not the best shot, I do try to aim first.

6/11/2007 08:37:00 AM  

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