Our city commission will be considering changes to the City Charter Monday, October 14, 2019 for a referendum vote March 2020. One issue discussed but not recommended by the Charter Review Advisory Committee is removing or limiting the authority of the Mayor to appoint board members. This issue, however, may still be considered by the city commission and commission members have indicated support for changing the authority of the Mayor.
Please contact the Mayor and Commissioners to urge them not to recommend changing the authority of the Mayor under the City Charter.
The following is a letter I wrote to the Charter Review Advisory Committee recommending against changing the authority of Mayor. If such a change is made, we might as well forgo the position of Mayor entirely and require all five commissioner members to appoint a “Chairperson” annually to preside at meetings and sign documents.
Letter to Charter Review Advisory Committee
I write to address a letter distributed recently by Anne Mooney on behalf of former commissioner Phil Anderson regarding removal of current charter language that grants the position of Mayor authority to appoint board members.
The only issue for the committee, the commission, and perhaps the voters is; “Is there justification for changing the authority of the position of Mayor of Winter Park as has existed in the City Charter for at least 30 years?”
The answer to this question has everything to do with wise governance and, contrary to Phil’s position, has nothing to do with contemporary political machinations, or “fairness,” or the “feelings” of those disenchanted with then current leadership, or “re-opening” opportunities, and certainly not with “inclusion.” These are buzz words.
Phil Anderson states, “This process of including nominations from the full Commission had been practiced for a long time.” This is false. The current Charter language has been in place for at least 30 years (maybe decades before that but city staff could not locate a copy of the Charter prior to 1985). Further, contrary to Phil’s assertions, a review of the minutes from 2006 forward (see links below) demonstrates that the Mayor at the beginning of Phil’s term exercised the same prerogative in appointing board members as the Mayors who took office during and subsequent to Phil’s term. Mayors before 2006 (as after) exercised this charter prerogative as they saw fit, some accepting (but not necessarily supporting) board appointments recommended by other commission members, some not.
In addition to being inaccurate about the history, Phil couches his recommendation in a veil of political correctness, presuming the change would result in more qualified appointees “regardless of their political leanings.” This is not true. If other commission members could appoint board members subject to majority approval as the Mayor does now, such appointments would be made with the same degree of political and/or personal relationship to the commissioner making the appointment as may or may not exist under the current Charter language.
I suggest our commission cut to the chase. The Charter is about governance and governance is about the allocation and organization of authority and responsibility.
Granting commission members other than the Mayor the authority under the Charter to appoint board members subject to a majority vote of the commission has consequences that have nothing to do with “fairness,” or “feelings,” or “inclusion.”
Diminishing the authority of Mayor is likely to deter people with proven high-level leadership qualities from seeking that office, to the detriment of city leadership generally.
Granting all commission members the opportunity to appoint board members in the Charter will further aggravate always present political bickering when appointees fail to get three votes.
Granting all commission members the opportunity to appoint board members in the Charter will further politicize the board appointment process, not lessen political aspects of such appointments.
Mayoral leadership is very important in a strong city manager form of government to maintain oversite in the interest of the electors. We need the Mayor to assume ownership of the city on our behalf and the Mayor needs the authority to do so. Making board appointments is the only unique authority other than presiding at meetings that assigns both power and responsibility to the Mayor. Careful judgment argues in favor of retaining such power and such responsibility.
Regards, Peter J. Weldon
Selected commission minutes where the Mayor appointed board members: