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Our Opinion: Empowering elected or appointed officials?

Our Opinion: Empowering elected or appointed officials?

News Tribune editorial

June 13th, 2012 in News

Who's in charge?

Is control of Jefferson City's government gradually being transferred from elected to appointed officials?

And is that what Jefferson City residents want?

Two members of the city's Charter Commission - which drafted the voter-approved document that serves as a framework for city government - have complained voters were misled in approving a Charter amendment. They contend the amendment shifts power from elected to appointed officials, which violates the spirit of the document.

We endorsed the amendment, but we understand the overriding concern voiced by critics.

Jefferson City's Charter established a mayor-administrator-council form of government, not a council-manager framework.

The difference between administrator and manager largely is one of power.

Our Charter concentrates power in the elected mayor and council, with an appointed administrator designated to carry out their policies.

Section 3.1 of the Charter reads: "Except as this charter provides otherwise, all powers of the city shall be vested in the council." And Section 5.1 reads: "The city administrator shall be responsible to the mayor and the council for the administration of all city affairs placed in his charge by or under this charter."

City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus characterized an administrator as a chief operating officer, in contrast to a manager's role as chief executive officer.

But, Nickolaus added, "the city administrator here has more power than what most city administrators would have, but less than a city manager."

Based on that description, the "mission creep" concerns voice by former Charter commissioners are not unfounded.

We do not agree, however, that city voters were misled. We believe the amendment was reasonable and specific, and give voters credit for understanding the issues placed before them.

We do believe, however, city residents - like Charter commissioners - prefer to vest power in their elected mayor and council, rather than appointed officials.

If some of that power has been transfused by the amendment, it is a small and finite amount.

A complete transfer to a city manager form of government would require petitions and an election, something we do not foresee in the near future.

We must remain vigilant, however, to attempts to transfer power from elected to appointed officials.