Strong-mayor form of government has run its course
I’ve watched my city of Plantation at work for several years and have thought a lot about its government structure.
We maintain our small-town feel with a strong sense of community, yet our population is approaching 100,000. That puts us among the 30 largest cities in the state.
Still, our form of government – a strong mayor who runs the day-to-day operations with a council that mtakes policy – harkens back to our 1953 founding, when the few roads we had were often made of dirt.
Every four years our residents elect a person to run an 800-person corporation with a current budget over $200 million. Is this still the best option, ensuring the most consistent quality of service, for our residents?
At our Feb. 10 council meeting, I proposed we look at our form of government and my peers agreed. We set April 24 as a date to hold a nonbinding workshop. We’ll bring in an advisor from the Florida City/County Managers Association to answer questions. Their service is free.
Services, not politics
City managers are professionals who are trained to run the city’s operations and manage employees who provide the city’s services. They are required to take continuing education courses and follow strict ethics guidelines. They also can focus on professional management of the city rather than having political concerns interfering with being the city’s chief executive.
The city began reviewing its city rules – in what’s called a “charter” –in 2018, the first charter review in Plantation’s six-plus decades. A charter review commission spent months reviewing the document and proposed some rewrites. The changes were before the council when the pandemic hit. Council members wanted to get public input in person – which still isn’t possible – and the
charter makeover did not make the November 2020 ballot.
Since the council is set to reopen the charter discussion in the next few months, it’s a good time to debate the city manager question as well. Both questions would go before the voters, likely in 2022.
Send your thoughts
I want to repeat a point we all used while evaluating changes to our charter: Be careful not to merely attach the curr\nt names to existing positions. Think about what’s best for our city in the long haul, not whether you like or dislike the existing leaders.
We should evaluate how shuffling our administrative system would cost the city and what form of city manager-style government residents would want. I will be doing more homework on my own and the April 24 workshop will likely better define our possibilities.