When the issue of changing city government came to my attention, it was something I had never needed to consider and the pros and cons of the matter were unknown to me.

The following is a guest opinion presented by Hope resident Mike Malek, which appears in the June 8 edition of the Hope Star. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Hope Star, its staff or corporate ownership.


When the issue of changing city government came to my attention, it was something I had never needed to consider and the pros and cons of the matter were unknown to me.
I googled “city manager vs mayor,” quickly found several professional, non-political resources, and began making a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each style of city government.
You may read the list and come to a conclusion different from mine, but it was clear to me that not only does the city manager style have many advantages, but city governments, other than in Arkansas, are moving decidedly toward city manager-council – not just for the advantages shown, but also because of the many disadvantages of mayoral-council form.  Voters would be well served by reading the resources listed below the chart before proceeding to the polls on July 10.
The Hope Star editor, Rick Kennedy, has generously offered to print the information below as a service to the community.

Advantages of City Manager-Council
1. The extreme complexity of city management – legal, administrative, human resources, financial, contracting, grant writing -- requires specialized education, training, and on-the-job experience
2. City manager/board style of government was created expressly to offset the corruption of strong, local political power
3. Experience, qualifications,  and performance are the factors used in selecting the professional city manager, rather than political power and connections that influence public elections
4. Diffuses the influence of small, special interest groups; much more difficult to influence multiple board members than a single entity, such as an elected mayor
5. City manager selects the most qualified staff rather than staff that have been recommended by political individuals
6. Eliminates “good ol’ boy” politics from municipal hiring-firing and local contracting
7. Allows the city  board to concentrate on policy/procedures while the city manager enforces policy set by city board
8. Encourages neighborhood (precinct) input and brings neighborhoods together to solve problems
9. City manager has no guaranteed term of office; can be dismissed immediately
10. Recognizes “best practices;” cities are rapidly moving from “strong mayor/council”  to “city manager/council”
11. Gives equal representation/power to the typically under-represented neighborhoods

Disadvantages of City Manager-Council
1. Few people know that the center of power is in the council members, not in the city manager, which creates a management problem
2. More difficult to hold multiple elected city board members responsible than a single person (mayor)
3. May be more costly to hire a highly trained & experienced professional city mgr. than a local person as mayor

Advantages of Mayoral-Council
1. Mayor is easily identified as political leader of community
2. Mayor can make quick policy decisions
3. Mayor more directly accountable to citizens

Disadvantages of Mayoral-Council
1. Local candidates seldom have the professional training and  experience to manage highly complex legal, financial, administrative issues; consequently, administrative professionals must be hired to compensate for a mayor’s lack of expertise.
2. Always reflects political power rather than professional expertise
3. Political power tends to be concentrated in the mayor; much more susceptible to the strong influence of a vocal minority
4. Reduces the power of neighborhoods to influence decision-making
5. Far less stability because of periodic elections; election changes bring loss of experience, history, and precedent;  when mayor changes, department heads often also lose their job.
6. Unsatisfactory mayor can only be recalled through special election and typically serves out full term before being replaced.
7. Temptation to hire key department heads (police chief, finance office, public works & fire dept. ) based on political support rather than professional qualifications
8. When a tie vote requires the mayor’s vote, half of the electorate are automatically disenfranchised

The above information is taken from the International City/County Management Association and the California City Management Foundation, but similarly reflected in the following resources:
• “Council-Manager or Strong Mayor: The Choice is Clear”   https://icma.org/documents/council-manager-or-strong-mayor-choice-clear   (International City/County Management Association)
• “Local Government 101: Strong Mayor vs. Council Manager”   http://blog.voterheads.com/local-government-101-strong-mayor-vs-council-manager/
• “Forms of Municipal Government”  http://www.nlc.org/forms-of-municipal-government
• “Pros, cons for council-manager government”   http://citizensvoice.com/news/pros-cons-for-council-manager-government-1.1046377
• “Who runs this town, anyway?”  https://onlinempa.unc.edu/city-manager-vs-mayor/   (Univ. of N. Carolina School of Government)