The issue of whether or not there should be a full time mayor in the new government proposed by the Charter Review Commission has become more complicated.
At the March public forum held by the Charter Review Commission the presentation by Bob Turner indicated that the commission envisioned a full time mayor. When a member of the audience asked him about the salary for this position, Mr. Turner offered that he thought it should be in the $60,000.00 to $70,000.00 range. While Mr. Turner went on to describe activities they envisioned a mayor would engage in such as “consensus building” and “going out into the community and listening” none of this is referenced in the charter draft and indeed it is difficult to imagine how these ideas could be translated into language for the charter. The actual duties they have come up with are listed in section 2.04 of their draft . They basically include presiding over meetings of the city council, appointing boards and committees, giving an annual state of the city address, and representing the city.
The new thinking as reflected by the April 6 Charter Revision Commission meeting minutes is that the charter will not address the issue of whether the mayor should be full or part time. In an email to me, Mr. Turner pointed out that the charter for any of the elected position does not address how many hours the positions require.
In his note to me he offered:
“The amount of time a mayor will spend on the job is a function of who the individual is. It was pointed out to us that there has been a significant difference in the time the last 5 mayors have spent on their duties. There is no language in any local, state or national charter or constitution about the amount of time a legislator or executive can or should spend doing their duties…”
So the city council we will elect this November would set the salaries and benefits for the future elected officials including how much a future mayor should be paid including if he/she should have a staff should the charter pass. There is no requirement in the charter that the mayor ‘s salary match council salaries so in effect, they would decide if there should be a salary for the mayor that is consistent with a full time position. Nothing would require a mayor under this system, though, to actually work full time. It is true that in the past most (not all) mayors have in fact put in what most people would consider to be a full week on the job. It is important to remember, however, that with a city manager, many of the duties that these past mayors have had to handle would now be done by a city manager.
So a hot issue in the next election would be how much the candidates would be willing to pay the future mayor in the event they win and the charter passes. Of course nothing would hold them to this.
There was quite a bit of push back at the public forum on having a full time mayor. This new approach may reflect this. At the risk of appearing snarky, I have a feeling that a majority of the charter commission would like to see a full time mayor but were afraid that if it was incorporated in the language of the charter, it might result in the referendum failing.
Salaries And Staggered Terms
I cannot remember the last time the mayor and city council’s salaries were raised. Given the current atmosphere, I would doubt an action on this is in our immediate future under the current charter.
The staggered terms for council members the charter commission is proposing could complicate the process in the future, though, should their charter proposal pass. State law requires that a seated council cannot raise their own salaries. They can only raise the salaries for the next elected council. So it’s hard to figure out how this would work with staggered terms since at any given time only a portion of the council would be eligible to vote for a raise. There may be a simpler answer for all of this but it would appear on its face that a council would have to propose raising the salaries not following the next election but following the election after that so that none of the seated council members voted for their own salaries, a delay of perhaps four years. Or would this happen in a year when four were up for election and the other three abstained? Or would some get the raise and others have to wait for the next election cycle?