Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We Need Charter Reform. Now.

Early this year, we had here what I thought was an excellent conversation on what Cincinnati government should look like. I suggested the City Manager is too powerful, and we need to amend the Charter to create a truly "strong mayor" form of government--one in which the mayor appoints department heads and proposes a budget.

And this week, Milton Dohoney proved me right.

Can anyone imagine an elected official telling his or her constituents that their choices are either (a) a new fee, or (b) reduction in police and fire services? Really, those are the only two choices? There aren't other places (apart from the City's principal responsibility to its citizens) that can be cut? I know that my world is upside down when I find myself in agreement with Chris Monzel.

But now, of course, the Kabuki dance will begin. Now that Dohoney has set forth an unpopular (untenable, frankly) budget proposal, Mayor Mallory will swoop in with a "better idea." It's all so disgustingly predictable.

It's time for a strong mayor. The Charter could be amended so the mayor's position would be altered as of the start of the next mayoral term. But it's time to start running City government as if both City leaders and City residents are grown-ups.

An aside: I love that fact that HamCo Commissioner David Pepper, while clearly busy with the nuts and bolts of trying to run a local government in the recession our Republican friends brought upon us, is thinking about what the overall structure of county government should look like. The Cuyahoga County proposal to create a Commission president (what some states would call a "county executive") with real authority is intriguing, to say the least. (It would resolve my complaints about leaving the budget to an unelected Administrator.) I'm no expert on local government structure, so I'm not sure what it takes--action by the state legislature? The County could, apparently, also adopt (through a plebiscite) a charter form of government. What if we did? Can we have charter governments (cities) within charter governments (the county)? It's the kind of thing I'm glad we have our leaders thinking about and discussing, and I hope to see more of this.

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