March 22, 1999
CARNATION--The City Council last week agreed unanimously to let the voters decide whether they want to replace their mayor and council with a council/manager system of government. The special election is scheduled for May 18.
Joan Sharp, who has investigated the issue as part of a citizens' committee, told the council that after a thorough study of the council/manager plan, the committee decided to recommend it.
"This is an opportunity to reconfigure the government to provide it with a more businesslike form," she said. "It will be more representational and create more opportunities for leadership to be shared."
In the council/manager type of system, the mayor is selected from among five elected councilmembers, with the same legislative authority as each member. The recently-hired city administrator/manager (Woody Edvalson) would answer to the majority vote of the council and is available at City Hall during business hours.
Edvalson had said in an earlier statement that the one of the goals the city had this year was to look closely at the two systems. "One way to resolve the former power struggles that had occurred between the mayor and council is to go to the council/manager system," he said.
In a comparison of both plans compiled by the citizens' committee, it was noted that that the council/manager is recognized as a progressive form of government that is less influenced by special interests. But residents Steve Osterday and Wes Larson both were concerned that accountability would be taken away.
"I don't believe the city is ready for a change. We haven't had enough time to see if the new administration can make a go of it," Larson said, referring to the appointed mayor and newly hired administrator.
Mayor Dave Hunter answered, though, that he has publicly supported the alternative, explaining he thinks the "time is right" since he is serving as an appointed mayor.
Councilmember Bob Patterson said there are "pros and cons" for any type of government, but that many cities and all new cities are moving toward the council/manager system. "I have tremendous admiration for Dave (Hunter)," he said. "He has a full-time job and a family and I don't see how he does it all. We are small and rural, but growing, with a larger staff and we hired the city manager with the thought in mind that with eight hours a day he can do a better job that a volunteer person with another job."
Patterson assured the citizens that the city manager would report to the council. "We will still be the elected representatives for the city," he said.
Councilmember Paula Turner, reminiscing about the recent "chaos" in town, noted an elected mayor has the power to cover things up. "If you remove the issue of politics, you get better business," she said. "You sacrifice some charm, and there is some pride with having a mayor, but the mayor is from the council and we hope that person will bear the same responsibility the same as if elected from the people."
Hunter noted that a public forum on the subject will be scheduled.