Another Power Grab

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In February, shortly before she lost the majority, Mayor Jones formed a charter commission. At the time, it was speculated that Jones, who has gone far beyond the boundaries which our charter draws for our elected officials, sought to expand the power of the mayor’s office. The mayor’s appointee to the board was found to be delinquent in her personal property taxes, which situation was county records indicate was not remedied until June.According to an ordinance of which our mayor seems chronically unaware, “No person shall be appointed to any board, commission, or committee of the city who is in arrears for any taxes due the city.” The mayor’s take on this, in her city paid column recently published in a local paper, was that the “tax question was referred back to the Council.” In fact, there was nothing to refer, but in that meeting, the mayor’s allies refused to comply with ordinance, and instead, the newly formed majority, upon motion of councilor Robinett, dissolved the charter commission entirely.

That a mayor who chafes at the the restrictions of the charter would want to form a commission to change the charter is hardly a surprise. But the greater question is whether the charter has other deficiencies which warrant the expense and difficulty of going through the charter reform process. The mayor has been asked, and has declined to offer any specifics. Her column, again calling for a charter commission, provides no explanation either. Instead, she merely asserts that “it is necessary to have a Charter Commission to keep the charter current, to address legal matters, to stay consistent with state and county laws and to maintain optimal operations.” If there was even a single particular of the charter which demands modification, Mayor Jones fails to mention it, in a column spanning most of an entire page.

On a more serious note, Mayor Jones has misused her column, published at a cost to city taxpayers of more than a thousand dollars, to attack her political opponents. The mayor claims that “The Charter Commission’s function is critical. It must not be limited by the fear of a few persons who believe that the Mayor wants to use the charter to change the status of the Mayor’s office.” Whether or not this fear is founded, the use of a city paid publication to advocate for the mayor’s specific, controversial policy goals, is inappropriate.

The mayor’s action here is the polar opposite of leadership. A leader would identify specific problems with the charter, provide them to the public for their consideration, and thereby make the case for a commission. The mayor, as she did with her now vanished “special commission”, demands action for no visible reason at all, keeping the public out of the loop. That she would spend many thousands of our tax dollars on a commission, without justifying her demand in any way, is nothing less than disrespect for the residents of this city. It is a misuse of the power with which the voters of the city entrusted her when she was elected nearly three years ago.