A proposed change in city ordinances would strip a lot of power from the job of mayor but that might be a good thing, the author says.
In its common council meeting packet for Tuesday, the ordinance sponsored by District 4 Alderman Kurt Larsen that looks at altering some of the mayor’s power was released in full.
The proposed ordinance would see the powers of the mayor reduced and would have the budgeting, property management and inventory and negotiation of sale and/or purchase of public property responsibilities of the mayor eliminated. This would not only affect Mayor Emily McFarland, who currently holds the office, but future Watertown mayors as well.
Larsen gave his reasoning for proposing the ordinance in a statement given to the Daily Times.
“The primary change affected by this ordinance is the shift of the burden of responsibility for property management from the mayor to the common council as a whole.... This does not mean that the council cannot, on occasion, authorize the mayor to act on their behalf on property issues,” Larsen said. “By removing this responsibility from the mayor and assigning it back to the common council, the hope would be that we can avoid situations like we saw recently, where actions taken by a mayor without the knowledge and buy-in of the aldermanic representatives lead to conflict between the mayor and the rest of the common council.
Larsen in the statement also gave reasoning why he thinks the aldermanic system helps aid the mayor in times of conflict.
“The aldermanic system allows us to get input from the public at a ground level. The further up the ladder you go, the more removed you get from the opinions on the ground. By having input from all districts, the common council is able to make decisions with a better understanding of the taxpayers needs and sentiments. Without that input, any mayor, acting alone, risks walking into a mine field without knowing it,” Larsen said. “This is why the state rules do not place that burden on the mayor. When the common council is acting on these higher impact decisions, they in effect, give cover to the mayor if controversy arises.”
The council meeting will take place tonight at 7 p.m. in city hall.