Muskogee voters must say no to Proposition I — a strong mayor form of government — because it places too much power in the hands of one person.
A strong mayor form of government would eliminate the position of city manager in favor of an elected mayor with greater control of the reins of city government and less oversight. The potential for success in a new form of government is far outweighed by the possibility of ineffectiveness or abuse.
Giving nearly complete power to a mayor is considered one of the pros of repealing our city charter. The idea is that a strong mayor would have more power to push through agendas that include better roads and more, better-paying jobs. A strong mayor would have the freedom to close deals for the betterment of our city.
However, not everyone who files to run for the office of mayor is qualified to hold that post. Muskogee deserves leaders who have experience and expertise in managing bigger organizations, businesses or governments. Muskogee needs leaders who don’t just seek power or run for office every two years without helping the community every day in between elections.
A top executive with nearly unfettered power and little oversight are ingredients that produce the same kind of good-ol’-boy network proponents of Proposition I say they want to eliminate.
One of the arguments you may hear is that we vote for our executive leaders in national, state and county elections. The logic says we should vote for our top executive at the municipal level, too.
But, there is a major difference between the way municipal governments operate versus the way national, state and county governments work.
The president of the United States and the governor of Oklahoma both have constitutional checks and balances in place to ensure each executive branch does not have too much power. Both have legislative and judicial branches to create a three-pronged government structure. Even at the county level, there are three commissioners to ensure no one person has too much power.
A strong mayor would have minimal checks and balances. The whole idea behind a strong mayor would be to place an executive above all others in city government. That person would answer to the voters once every two years.
Muskogee has a top executive — it’s our city manager. Mike Miller oversees the day-to-day operation. The city manager is hired, evaluated and, when necessary, replaced by our city council. That helps ensure the top executive here has checks and balances.
Our form of government ensures each member of the nine-member City Council has an equal voice. We believe more voices help ensure the correct path is ultimately chosen.
A strong mayor would have the ability to hire and fire city department heads or other employees without immediate consequence. That person would have too much decision-making power without built-in consequences. A strong mayor would have the ability to provide favors for friends. A strong mayor would have the ability to hire friends or fire real or imaginary enemies.
Repealing our existing charter — unique to our city — and trading it for a cookie-cutter form dictated by state law does not necessarily mean progress.
Considering all the possibilities, we believe our current city manager-city council form of government has the best chance of actual progress.
Voters must say No on June 30.