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A CITY MANAGER COULD END CHAOS AT CITY HALL


A mayor and council at war. No strategic planning for runaway growth. Police and other pressing issues ignored or neglected. Beleaguered employees caught in the crossfire.  Politicians blaming each other. A city divided.

Sound familiar?

That may sound a lot like our current city government, but the year was ca. 2010 when practically the same situation was going on, only the names were different.

There was no resolution then and none is in sight now.

A solution floated at that time was to change to a city manager/council form of government (from a mayor/council one) where a professional administrator would run daily city operations instead of a mayor who may not be fully qualified, taking a lot of the usual patronage (favoritism) and "politics" out of the equation.

One council member, Jimmy Conyers, says it should at least be considered again; another wouldn't say one way or another (Robinson) and Burrell, Boone, and Brown oppose the idea outright.

As we understand the process, citizens submitted a petition to the judge of probate for a voter referendum for the change, an election was scheduled for Oct. 2nd, and if approved the change would be implemented when the new government is sworn in after the next municipal election, November 2020.

A new 'Council of the City of Fairhope' would be established to replace the current traditional city council and the mayor would become one of its voting members; a new city manager would be hired as CEO to administer policies and manage employees under direction of the new Council (not the mayor).

Besides continuing as the ceremonial "head of state," the new mayor would preside over Council meetings, as it was done here prior to the year 2000.

One thing is for sure: The status quo is not acceptable.

We endorse the proposal to help bring much-needed order and transparency to our government, enable better long-range strategic planning, and provide some measure of stability (job security) for city employees ... as well as reduce the influence of the usual well-connected special interests.

The city council should not allow special interests to derail the vote, allow the referendum to take place as scheduled, and hen decide the district representation matter itself by majority vote.

Those who think current shortcomings of city government could be solved by simply electing a new mayor and/or council may want to think again, that may only perpetuate the problem, small town pork-barrel politics as usual.


EDITOR


18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Changing the form of government will not resolve the underlying issues in Fairhope.

Anonymous said...

If this had been done years ago we would not have this mess today.

Anonymous said...

Throw all da bums out. Get some new bums!

Anonymous said...

The good ole boys are not going to like this. They were hoping to "put things back the way they were" and reestablish their gravy train.

Anonymous said...

What's needed most is a new mayor!

Anonymous said...

Pros and cons. Would be helpful if Times would post the actual 5 page document. Timing also interesting. Meeting tomorrow Fairhope Library (

Problems and political blame train runs both ways, folks...

Anonymous said...

Bad idea all the way around. With a Council-Manager form of government, the citizens lose the right to elect their CEO, and the separation of powers become extinct as the council would now control the executive AND legislative functions, and the city manager just becomes a lap dog for the council. And, there's no guarantee the council hires a competent City Manager. If you get a terrible manager, you have to rely on the council to terminate that person, which almost never happens because of the lap dog effect. Currently, voters get to elect the CEO (Mayor). If they're not performing, they get voted out. You lose that option with a Council-Manager form of gov't. Not to mention you're adding another layer of bureaucracy and expense. What's really needed is a Mayor and Council that can actually work together.

Anonymous said...

Yeah and if pigs had wings they'd fly. Council and mayor get along? Not gonna happen here.... where you been bro? Time to try something new!!

Anonymous said...

Well said!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wrong. Citizens aren't known for making good selections (usually only their relatives or friends) but will get to elect all of the people who select the manager, a professional not just anyone who walks in off the street .... maybe with zero experience. A prescription fort disaster.

Anonymous said...

Am I correct in understanding that the person appointed as city manager is not even required to be a resident of the City?

Icancommenthere said...

The City Manager job description and required experience is mandated by state law. It doesn’t matter where they are from, just that they know how to run a city and they listen to input from the citizens. Here is a link to the law:

https://codes.findlaw.com/al/title-11-counties-and-municipal-corporations/al-code-sect-11-43-21.html

The major difference in this form of government vs what Fairhope currently has is that if either council or mayor interfere with the operations of the city, it is first a misdemeanor and the second time they are removed from office. These things keep the city manager from being anyone’s “lapdog”. They are there to fulfill the duties of overseeing operations of the city. Many very successful cities are run this way. It would be better if Alabama had more of them like other states do. You can see that the states with a higher % of CM government are states that are run with less drama than Alabama.

When this form of government is enacted, it also means that the city automatically forms districts. The district lines are mandated by law too so there is no fixing these to serve political purposes. Greater Fairhope is at 32,000 people now and the council and mayor all live in a very close cluster. This is not what you want for a city. All of the seats are voted for by all citizens, but three council seats run to represent their district. One council seat and the mayor still run at large. All have a vote.

This is very informative:

https://www.accma-online.org/Sites/ACCMA/Documents/Main/ACCMA-%20Local%20Government%20Management%20in%20Alabama%20Cities%201-16%20Autosaved.pdf

Anonymous said...

Police chief petties does not live in the city limits, why should that matter.

Anonymous said...

To suggest hiring a city manager, whose employment is entirely at the whim of the council, would end the politics and bickering that has stymied this city, is simply preposterous. City managers serve at the pleasure of the council, meaning they are, by economic incentive, inclined to stay on the majority side of a vote.

Anonymous said...

Yes. That is exactly the point. A return to the policy of rule by the majority ... in a democratic manner.

Anonymous said...

Electing S. S. mayor definetly will not solve it.

Anonymous said...

It is my opinion that the council-manager form of government is the only efficient form of organization for a city such as Fairhope. Our population statistics do not reveal that this city has revenue in excess of similar size cities due to owning three utilities which are highly specialized types of businesses requiring significant management skills. Also since Fairhope utiliizes profits from those utilities we have more services and possibly employees than a similar size city. Fairhope is a large complex entity and needs a professional city manager.

I hope a suffiicent number of residents signed the petitions to allow us to vote on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Why would the mayor and city council try to block the voter referendum?