One of the few perks available to the Mayor of Colorado Springs is, one hopes, a speechwriter.
If not, Mayor Lionel Rivera would have been obliged to labor late into the night to produce many thousands of words of flat, turgid prose. If he did, my sympathies! And if he didn’t, speaking as one with a demonstrated ability to churn out flat, turgid prose, my sympathies go to the folks in the city’s public communications department.
I missed the speech – so I can only assume that the official trascript of the mayor’s remarks is accurate.
It’s interesting for its impotent, complaining tone. Let’s ignore the bizarre shout-out to the estimable Mike Moran, or the fawning tribute to the Independent’s Adrian Stanley, and try to summarize the speech’s content in four very short sentences.
City good! City broke! Pay up or else! That means you, Mr. & Ms. Taxpayer!
With minor variations, Colorado Springs mayors have delivered the same doleful news since 1981, when I arrived back in town. The city has been strapped for cash in good years and bad, in sun and rain, in summer and winter, year after year, decade after decade-and somehow we keep on muddling through.
But our Mayors complain-and that may be because the position they occupy is virtually powerless.
Under the city manager form of government, Mayor & Council can only make policy, not execute it.
The nine-member council hires a handful of senior managers, including the city manager, the utilities director, the city attorney, the city clerk, and the auditor-and that’s it. Those managers, in turn, run the city. They hire, they fire, and they execute policy according to their interpretation of Council’s policy directives.
Tha Mayor has no more power than any other member of Council. He or she cannot, except through persuasion, negotiation, and compromise, fashion policy and direction for the city, and hire folks to carry out those policies.
The council selects its appointees by majority vote-and they owe no more loyalty to the Mayor than to any other councilmember.
That’s why every Mayor in recent history has looked enviously at Denver’s chief executive, who actually runs the city.
Denver has a so-called “strong mayor’ form of government, which grants the Mayor the kind of power that we associate with chief executives-the power to hire and fire, to create budgets, and to, if necessary, run roughshod over a comparatively powerless city council.
Since Tabor was first enacted locally, as a charter amendment during 1991, the mayor’s position has devolved from impotence to irrelevance. Like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, the mayor is powerless…unless we take Eddie Murphy’s advice, given to the spouse who had just caught him “in flagrante ” in the famous SNL skit.
“Who you gonna believe??!! Me-or your lyin’ eyes?”