If the “strong mayor” initiative passes on Nov. 2, there may be an unforeseen consequence or two.
Money talks, everything else walks. In 1991, I managed to get elected to city council by spending a then-unprecedented $9,000 on a decidedly amateurish campaign. I made my own TV spots, designed my own posters and stapled ‘em to wooden stakes! Handed out silly little flyers that I wrote, bought two new suits (with my own money, not campaign contributions) and tried to look like a gen-yoo-wine community leader! And today? The last developers standing (David and Chris Jenkins) spend more than $500k to put a complex charter amendment before the voters. That sum, enormous as it may seem, will be dwarfed by the money that will pour into next April’s election.
Do David, Chris and the scores of serious folks who have endorsed/contributed to “the Mayor Project” have a follow up plan? Or did they just toss away a few hundred grand with nothing but a hope and a prayer?
My guess is that they’ve already settled on a smart, serious person whom they’ll support as mayor – and I suspect that they have a few folks in mind for city council as well.
As structured, the initiative essentially splits city government into two separate entities.
The mayor runs the city, but has little power over land use issues (arguably the most important task of city government), absent a concurring majority on city council. The new structure puts council in charge of city enterprises, most notably Colorado Springs Utilities. Given that CSU policy/governance issues are often far more important than city issues, it’s a curious and unreasonable change.
What’s more important: Hiring, firing, and bossing around a few dozen senior city employees, or making decisions about billion-dollar water delivery systems, hundred-million dollar power plants, and utility rates that will affect every business, resident and nonprofit in the city?
It doesn’t matter who the strong mayor is, if he/she has little power. It’s as if Obama had sent Petraeus to Afghanistan while withdrawing 70 percent of the troops.
The folks at the Mayor Project blame the city’s single subject ordinance for their woes, claiming that any change in CSU’s governance could only have been addressed in a separate initiative.
For the new ‘strong mayor’ to have any say over CSU, he/she will have to have a compliant council.
It’s possible that if the initiative passes, the folks behind the Mayor project will follow up with another one expanding the powers of the Mayor to include the city’s enterprises. It’s also possible that they’ll back a slate of council candidates who, in essence, promise to be yes-men and yes-women.
Neither effort is likely to succeed. Colorado Springs voters seem to like feisty, independent council members like Tom Gallagher, Cheryl Gillaspie, and Darryl Glenn – so a group of candidates who pledge to shelf their own judgment would likely be summarily rejected. A fresh initiative might be greeted with suspicion by distrustful voters – so we’ll most likely be stuck with our newly truncated municipal government.
Such opportunities for politicking, for power plays, for endless disputes, for deceptive, overfinanced campaigns … Chicago, he we come!
Maybe I should buy some new suits…