EDITOR’S DESK: Concerns about ‘strong mayor’

       OK, here we go. I'm not eager to get in the ring with the heavy political hitters in this town, but at the same time if I'm going to keep filling this column every week, it seems incumbent (a good election word!) to see if I can shed a little light now and then on local proposals that will affect us Westsiders just as much as anyone else. Perhaps most intriguing is the so-called "strong mayor" plan - Question 300 on the November ballot. (As an aside, the ballot has a total of 18 questions, so it's not as if a voter can start too early in trying to understand them all.)
       Regarding 300, after reading its 14 pages, I came away with the impression that approving this question would be a big mistake. It seems to be based on the premise that the current system is outmoded and unwieldy, and 300 will grease the skids for a visionary leader to get things done. But I happen to like the current system, because it isn't greased. Matters get studied, endlessly it sometimes seems, and yet that helps refine the ultimate decision and lets all sides be heard. An even bigger problem, as I see it, is the politics the strong-mayor plan would bring. Forget visionaries. I take the cynical viewpoint that those backing this plan probably have some power base now and see this as a vehicle for ramming through their agenda if they can just get in a slate of a mayor and four cronies (needed to offset the 2/3 veto override on a nine-member council). Mayor Doug Bruce, anyone? Also bad would be the impact on city staff. Those I've known through the years, such as Don Sides (featured this issue), worked purely for the good of the town, but with a strong mayor's ability to hire and fire department heads the staff instead would be forced to work for the good of the mayor, which might not be the same thing. Sure, the current City Council is like a nine-headed hydra - better at pontificating than building consensus - but strong new candidates can change that. If your goal is a better city, elect different people. Don't fix a system that isn't broken.

- K.J.