Sunday, January 10, 2010

Charter Commission Failing?

In an article about the new Westbrook mayor, the Press Herald reports on the status of the Charter Commission working on the possibility of an elected mayor for Portland. Instead of having a mayor with actual power, and one who can act as a counter to the Council, the Commission appears to be proposing an elected mayor with no more power than the current one.

Having a mayor with no real power defeats the whole purpose of having an elected mayor. The Commission is essentially creating a new at-large Council member with the title of "mayor." Part of the reason for a real mayor is to have someone who can be accountable for the budgets, and the overall direction of the city (now much of that is in the hands of the unelected City Manager). The election process for a real mayor should allow for candidates to debate issues like the future of the waterfront, changes to Franklin Arterial, housing, business and school priorities. If the new "mayor" has no real control over these issues, you won't get good candidates and these debates won't have much of a point.
"The Portland Charter Commission has drafted a job description for a popularly elected mayor. At this point, it is calling for an elected mayor who would be much less powerful than the mayor of Westbrook.

Under the commission's proposal, the mayor would be a voting member of the council and have no power to hire or fire anybody. The mayor would chair the council meetings and be assigned the job of managing the budget process for the city and the School Department in a 'consensus-building' manner, Plumb said.

Any additional power, she said, would come from the political authority of having won a citywide election. The mayor would serve a four-year term."