Regional Action Update :: Strong Mayor 2.0 or No?

The Regional Action Committee is the political arm of Metro EDGE.  The goal of the committee is to keep Metro EDGE members informed and engaged in current issues affecting the Sacramento region and more specifically the lives of young professionals and future business leaders. Read below to be kept in the know! 
On January 20, two public policy professors came together at the Metro Chamber to discuss the proposed “Checks and Balances Act of 2012.” Dr. Barbara O’Connor (Sacramento State University) and Professor Robert Benedetti (University of the Pacific) gave the crowd thier take on the act, which recommends a variety of changes to our city’s charter and governance structure, which is more than 100 years old.  

 The complete draft of the proposal can be found here. The highlights of the Checks and Balances Act of 2012 include:

  • Would make the mayor the chief executive of the city, rather than the city manager
  • Would have a City Council President preside over council meetings, rather than the mayor, which would free up the mayor’s time by allowing him to not have to manage the nitty gritty of the meetings
  • The mayor would propose a budget that gets approved by the council
  • Would create new processes for transparency and public input
  • Would create an Independent Redistricting Commission
  • The proposal would automatically sunset in 2020 if not re-approved by voters

It was made very clear that this proposal has changed quite significantly from the Strong Mayor initiative in 2008. The full report has a chart that compares them directly.

Professor Benedetti described how California has chosen an interesting governing system (for all across the state) where we have both city managers and mayors – a “dual executive system”. This model has plusses and minuses. Since the city manager is not elected, Prof. Benedetti argued that is important for the mayor to have more authority since that person is more accountable to the public.

A key emphasis that both professors made was that the role of the mayor should be as a figurehead that can create a regime to run the city not just through government but through partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors too. They argued that the mayor should be the “chief negotiator” and his time should be available for those type of tasks rather than the day to day tasks of running city council meetings – instead he should focus on being the “aggregator for the city’s vision and use the bully pulpit to set the tone for the city pursue bigger ideas”.  Another key point that was discussed heavily is the public’s current distrust and distaste for government. Both professors felt that the changes in this proposal would be helpful in increasing transparency and accountability.

There were several questions by audience members about why we should reform the charter instead of making smaller tweaks along the way that don’t constitute “charter reform”. There were a variety of questions about the redistricting commission logistics. A few others asked about delaying reform until the next census, what’s the rush type of concerns. Both professors concluded that we cannot wait for a perfect proposal and this was a step in a good direction that we should take advantage of.

Supporters of the initiative would like to get it placed on the June 5, 2012 ballot. If approved by voters, it would take effect in November 2012.

Interested in learning more? Want to get involved? Conact the Chairs of the Regional Action Committee and they can let you know how to do just that. Contact: MacKenzie Woodard or Erika Bjork.