POSTED ON OCTOBER 20, 2010:
Duke It Out
Tulsa's size makes it best fit for Mayor-Council form of government
In 1989, the citizens of Tulsa made an informed and progressive decision to change our form of government from the City Commission to the Mayor--Council form of government. This decision was made after months of public discussion and input from citizens all across Tulsa. One reason for the citizen's support of this change is that Tulsans believe in several important principals that need to be a part of the day-to-day operations of city government.
These principals included a separation of the powers between the two branches of government -- the legislative Council and the Chief Executive Mayor. This was modeled after the form of our federal government founded in the Constitution. Tulsans believed then, as now, that by having these two branches would provide the checks and balances on the powers granted to the elected officials by the citizens.
Tulsans also believed in the principal that those responsible for the day to day operation and decisions of city government should be held directly accountable to the citizens of Tulsa.
Both of these principals are founded in our current Mayor--Council form. Neither of these would be found in the Council--Manager form of government now being proposed as a replacement. Wrapping the legislative and executive duties into a Council--Manager form provides no checks and balances and provides day-to-day governing decisions by a manager not accountable to the citizens.
I believe we can have, and in fact do have, the best of these principals in our current form. I made it a priority of mine shortly after my election last year that I would design a management structure with professional and experienced city managers like no Mayor before me had. I looked for those who understood city government, had actual experience managing city government services, and who collectively would bring to the table as much if not more than a city manager would. Between my Chief of Staff Terry Simonson, my Director of Administration Jim Twombly, and my Director of Public Property and Transportation Jeff Mulder, they have more than 25 years of actual city management experience which has proven invaluable during these difficult times.
Cities the size of Tula have historically been governed by the Mayor--Council form. Out of the 50 largest cities in America, 62 percent have the Mayor--Council form of government. And since Tulsa made its government change in 1989, no less than nine other cities the size of Tulsa have made the same switch to the Mayor--Council form.
The Council--Manager form is generally suited for smaller cities and towns. And it's a misnomer to believe that a Council-Manager form is more stable. City managers, like Mayors, have their share of conflict and turnover.
The issue today of considering a change in our form is not founded on any evidence that city services are being mismanaged. Rather, it's one of control and power and who should have this: a duly elected and accountable Mayor or an appointed City Manager. Tulsa is a business city, unlike a government city where many are employed by one government or another. When Tulsa approved the charter change in 1989, it chose a form consistent with this business organization approach: one chief executive and administrative officer accountable to the citizens.
During these difficult times and those which may lie ahead, in my view this is not the time for such a dramatic change in our government. We have elections for the purpose of making needed changes with those in office. To me this is the more democratic and citizen decided way to keep the checks and balances and accountabilities in place.
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