Thursday, December 6, 2007

Executive Decisions

One observation that was missed by pretty much all of the politicos and commentators concerning last year’s local legislative elections was the fact that every county commissioner and school board member who ran for reelection did so unopposed.

Regarding the Athens-Clarke County Commission, two candidates ran for an open seat in District 1 (including yours truly) and four ran for the open seat in District 9 (with one subsequently dropping out), but the incumbents in Districts 3, 5, and 7 were returned to office merely by qualifying for reelection. The same held true for the Board of Education, with the only contested race being for an open seat in District 5, which drew two contestants. The incumbents in Districts 1, 3, 7, and 9 were reelected without opposition.

The sole incumbent who ran for reelection with opposition was the mayor, facing four challengers (one of whom dropped out prior to the election). Note that I’m concerning myself with major local offices, not judicial or other arcane ones.

The reason for bringing this up can be found in today’s Banner-Herald. Blake has a story about Commissioner Carl Jordan calling for the mayor’s position to be elevated from a part-time one paying $45,000/year to a full-time one paying $75,000-85-000/year, ostensibly to attract qualified candidates.

I frequently agree with Carl, particularly on fiscal issues, and I understand his reasoning. However, given our most recent election, I’m not so sure about the rationale on this one. On the other hand, I think that Carl is entirely correct in that implementation of the Step F drought management plan will be problematic (at best).

If, as the article states, the mayor’s power, responsibilities, and salary all fall in the middle of the statewide spread, then there doesn’t seem to be a problem. Even so, I realize that it requires quite a bit of time and effort to be a good mayor or commissioner and that perhaps we have moved beyond the time when a part-time government sufficed. On the other hand, of course, a cynic may argue that if the Unified Government did not try to regulate, ban, or otherwise micromanage every issue with which it came in to contact, perhaps the workload on the mayor and commissioners would not be so great (sorry, I just had to get that one in).

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Adrian said...

There is too much micromanagement that uses quite a bit of time. How do we determine the ideal time demands on the commission?

james said...

Any specific determination of time would be arbitrary.

While willing to discuss other options, my default position is that the mayor and commissioners should function as envisioned at the time of unification and paid accordingly, meaning that they would remain part-time government officials.

The mayor's office was designed to serve a coordinating function, so to speak, with the day to day operations of the government left to the manager and the departments. The commissioners should set policy in the broad sense, as opposed to getting involved in minutia or trying to put their personal stamps of approval on everything that happens in the county.

Of course, this would mean a less activist government - so it is not likely to happen.

jmSnowden said...

The M and C need to decide if they want to do the staff's jobs. If so, fire the staff and take their pay. If not, back off and quit trying to be the planning director,county attorney or any of the other jobs they just have to stick their thumbs in.

Anonymous said...

Or, fire the staff and hire some folks who will take direction.

I won't get into specifics, but I'm starting to hear complaints about "the government" that are actually ultimately attributable to staff, NOT elected officials.

In the past year I have personally been hamstrung/frustrated by one particular new local ordinance. When I complained about it to several commissioners, their response was "Huh? that's not what we intended to happen when we passed that."

So I did a little research, and sure enough, the commissioners were right. The ordinance they passed says one thing, staff's interpretation of the ordinance is slightly (but maddeningly) different.

In my attempts to get some clarification on the issue, the general response seems to be "We can't tell staff what to do."

Well why the f#%$ not?

anon for my on protection

Anonymous said...

Anon for my own protection: could you give a few more details?

Anonymous said...

a lot of the problematic "staff" are actually elected too... let us not think that it is just the bureaucrats that are fault here

Anonymous said...

None of the staff is elected, by definition.