In the past several weeks, I have read articles concerning a lack of understanding of the wishes of the electorate in years past, and an obvious lack of knowledge about the proper role of municipal government.
In the paragraphs that follow, let us look at both subjects.
The idea of altering our city administration has once again raised its ugly head. Thrice in the past decade, or perhaps a little longer, it was suggested that the city employ a city manager, hired and supervised by city council, while reducing the role of the elected mayor to one who rides in parades, attends ribbon cuttings, and kisses babies, and three times the electorate voted down the idea.
When one considers this idea, it appears on the surface to be as a matter long overdue for adoption. But, think about this subject for a little while.
A professional city manager, based on classified advertisements that I have seen, does not come cheap: annual salaries are approximately $125,000, plus whatever benefits cost, plus a city automobile, plus a secretary and that individual's salary and benefits, plus a private office complex.
Add all this up and it is obvious that it would cost well over $200,000 per (year) for not much more than is already had.
The City Council, consisting of five individuals who normally meet twice a month to discuss city business, and who are not allowed by the state's Sunshine law to discuss any business outside of an open meeting would find it extremely difficult to garner a majority and timely vote to express a supervisory directive to a manager.
In other words, once hired, the city manager would virtually do what he, or she, wanted, or not. Assuming that the manager performed unsatisfactorily, it would require the council to bring up a discussion of concern in an open meeting and then have a majority vote to direct the manager to act otherwise.
As council would be entrusted with hiring a manager, it would also mean that it would be the duty of the council to dismiss the manager. This would mean that three out of five members, in an open meeting, would have to agree to act.
One recent article about this subject stated that of the 400-plus municipalities in Florida, only a handful of cities and towns function without a manager. Therein, it was implied, since most of the other places function with a manager, Crestview should do likewise.
This thought reminds me of the old joke in which a mother was asking her juvenile, "If Johnny Smith jumped off that bridge, would you have to do likewise?" Except, here we could ask, "Should Crestview have a manager just because others have managers?"
Obviously, there (are many) factors to be considered before a decision is made.
Before the citizens can be wooed into making the above-cited changes, I, for one, have a different solution, if it is deemed that our current form of government is lacking.
Like Pensacola — and I am not saying that we should mirror that municipality — I would strongly urge that the thought be given to converting to a "strong mayor" form of government. In this way, should the mayor be found lacking, it would be up to the electorate to fire the incumbent, either at the polls or by impeachment, should matters so warrant such an action.
The second item of concern is about City Council failing to bring more businesses, restaurants and places for the kiddies to play to Crestview.
It is apparent that those who voice these opinions are not familiar with the proper role of municipal government.
The role of municipal government, simply, is to provide those services that the individual citizens cannot provide for themselves, i.e., police and fire protection, roads and sewer systems, and whatever other services are deemed to be necessary for the body politic.
I once heard a distinguished educator and a former member of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania state very emphatically, "If they want something else, let them go out and build it."
Granted that this is a hard line to take, but if analyzed it has merit. Council has no more authority in our form of government to create a business or open a restaurant than any citizen.
One solution to this dilemma is to address such concerns to the local chamber of commerce. Locally, this organization boasts of a membership of some 500, but what is this organization doing for the community? Monthly breakfasts and annual barbecue and Halloween events do little to attract outsiders to want to come to this fair city and invest their resources.
I earnestly suggest that great research and study be conducted regarding these subjects.
Bob Allen is a former Crestview City Council member.
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