Mayor Bach is well-equipped, so let him lead

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I supported the strong mayor initiative and wrote favorably about the “Jenkins’ Proposal” that made it happen. I also supported Richard Skorman out of loyalty and a belief that with a new structure in place, experience would count.

A strong mayor is essential, and I now believe that Mayor Bach is the right man for the job.

His inexperience may be his biggest asset: he doesn’t just go along with what has traditionally been done, and as a one-term mayor, he’s doing what’s right, not what will get him re-elected.

One example the mayor cites is the multi-year budget process.

Next year’s budget proposal is based on the previous year’s, rather than on actual revenue and expenditures. This means, for example, that of a $223 million budget, about $5 million has been allocated for “authorized positions” at maximum pay even though the positions are unfilled.

Why keep this allocation in the budget?

City budget planners could argue that it’s the sensible way of doing business: keep the lines funded even when unoccupied, since they might be filled at some later point. Has the city suffered from these positions remaining unfilled? If unclear, keep them unfilled, and reduce the budget by whatever amount was allocated to them.

What happens if they are needed in the future? Then add them to a revised budget.

Having worked on small ($1million a year) and large budgets ($35 million a year), budgets must be periodically revised, given the dynamic nature of organizations: People retire or leave, opportunities materialize, or markets dry out. Though council has to approve the budget annually, and though the mayor has veto rights, it seems that council relishes its ability to over-ride the mayor, as seen recently.

It all looks like the federal farce we are witnessing in Washington, when congress muscles its way to paralysis, leaving a befuddled president powerless. If the intent of council is to show the mayor who’s boss, they should all resign.

Perhaps the three incumbents resent the fact that they are not the mayor — they could have run for the position — while the six new ones are as inexperienced as the mayor and still don’t know what role they ought to play.

The mayor claims to have reached out to all of them individually, only to find out that they don’t communicate with each other. The best he could get from them is a rejection of a contingency operating fund of $1.5 million which they deemed his “slush fund.” This is a public institution with required transparency. So, it’s not that they don’t trust him, they probably don’t trust themselves.

Unlike them the mayor has offered four initiatives or Solutions Teams, community volunteers in the areas of Parks (Richard Skorman), Transit (Robert Shonkwiler), Streetscapes (Dave Munger), and Downtown (Chuck Murphy). Notice that two chairs were his opponents in the run for mayor. Only Councilman Tim Leigh has proposed initiates, and other council members mock him.

Some might be worried that the mayor’s new staff appointments are expensive, especially in this economy.

Chief Communication Officer Cindy Aubrey earns $95,000. Her predecessor, Sue Blumberg, made $116,000. During the leadership transition, the department shrank from 12 to eight positions.

Chief of Staff Laura Neumann, who replaced Steve Cox and his $182,488 salary, makes $165,000. Cox is making the same salary in his new role as Economic Vitality Chief, heading a department with 4 rather than 8 members, while withdrawing $70,000 in subsidy from the EDC.

If these numbers don’t convince you that the mayor is prudent with city expenditures, or that he’s not applying his business acumen to his role as mayor, two other areas may prove the point.

First, he’s drawing on his experience as a commercial real-estate broker to promote the city to local and outside companies. He’s the Salesman in Chief. And for this role, he has trained for 40 years, convincing companies to buy buildings and plant their roots here.

Second, he’s trying to make the city business-friendly. What does it mean? I doubt he’ll be able to reduce fees, since our tax base is so low, and fees are essential to maintain an operational infrastructure. But, just talk to the Fire Chief and you’ll hear the mantra of business-friendly.

I proposed that the department provide pre-purchase inspection drafts (for a fee) to potential buyers so they’d know in advance what to expect from code enforcement. He promised to consider it. More than can be said about the Regional Building Board (on whose board councilman Bernie Herpin sits), where the mayor has no say.

Perhaps councilmembers should do their jobs as directors of Memorial, Utilities, and RBD and let the mayor run the city. It might be best that council is divesting itself from overseeing Memorial; perhaps council should do the same with CSU and RBD, and let the mayor oversee them, too!

Raphael Sassower is professor of philosophy at UCCS. He can be reached at rsassower@gmail.com Previous articles can be found at sassower.blogspot.com