Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hailey embroiled by initiative proposing 'council-manager plan of government'


The future of Hailey city governance will be placed in the hands of the city's registered voters as part of a special election Tuesday, May 23, during the regularly scheduled Primary Election.

At issue is whether Hailey should switch to operating as a city manger-run city, or continue to operate under the more traditional mayor-run form of government.

Former Hailey Mayor Al Lindley brought the question to the voters in the form of an initiative.

Lindley asked the Hailey City Council to consider the matter during a council meeting on Jan. 9. He asked the council to consider making a resolution to place the question on the ballot of an upcoming election.

A professionally trained city manager would bring a higher level of professionalism to the city's government, Lindley said.

His proposal came amid a history of competition with Mayor Susan McBryant, who took over as mayor when Lindley resigned in late 2002. The two later faced off in an ensuing mayoral election, which McBryant won.

In the end, council members considered Lindley's request, but decided against making such a motion.

Lindley then chose to go the citizen's initiative route to get the question on the Tuesday, May 23, ballot.

McBryant objects to Lindley's assertion that a city manager is better equipped to oversee the operations of a city in a professional manner. The critical issue being debated is leadership, she said, and whether or not city staff has clear direction from the city's leader.

Lindley disagrees with her argument that citizens are better served by having a mayor who can be held accountable for his or her campaign promises. In essence, the same can be said for a city manager, who is both appointed and can be recalled by the elected City Council, Lindley said.

Currently, only three Idaho, municipalities operate under a city manager-run form of city government rather than the more traditional mayor-run form of government: Lewiston, McCall and Twin Falls.

Approval of the measure requires only a simple majority of Hailey voters to vote yes on the matter.

A yes vote by Hailey residents wouldn't be the end of the story, however. Within 60 days of such a ballot measure being approved a special election to select a new five-member City Council would have to take place. It would then be up to the new council to select and hire a city manager who would take on the chief executive role formerly held by the mayor.

The city would continue to have a mayor, but that person would be appointed by the City Council from within their ranks and would mainly have only ceremonial duties.


Vote yes

Not a limit to mayor's authority

Former Hailey mayor

The city of Hailey should vote to change the type of government to Manager/Council on May 23.

A professionally trained city manager would bring a higher level of professionalism to the city's government. The city manager of McCall was quoted in the Wood River Journal, "the city manager style allows the council and the mayor to set a broad strategy, concentrating on the roles they were elected for, and lets the city manager professionally attend to the technical and operational details that council members are often not as well-equipped as an experienced business or city managers to oversee."

Mr. Kirkpatrick, city manager of McCall, said, "that the city manager style also provides insulation between the service and technical process and political side of issues."

The current Mayor of Hailey has stated, "There is virtually no difference in the qualifications for a city manager and a city administrator." Why not hire a true professional and establish the authority and responsibility? The city of Hailey can not attract a city administrator because of what happened to the previous city administrator in 2004. Stan McNutt, a member of the International City/County Management Association and recent interim Blaine County administrator stated "there is not enough security to attract top professional city administrator candidates." The insecurity relates to the city administrator reporting directly to the mayor. The city manager reports to the City Council and it takes a majority vote to override or discharge the person.

A city manager provides consistent and professional enforcement of Ordinances, personnel policy and especially financial policy and planning.

A city manager is separated from the day-to-day or year-to -year changes in politics. Without those concerns, a city manager can focus more on the operations of the city.

Because of the types of decisions, financial issues and personnel rules and regulations Hailey needs a professional manager not part time and under qualified leadership.

The "Culture of Stagnation" (Stan McNutt): Historical methods, attitudes and culture may allow "mediocrity by default" if the agency fails to periodically review its practices or fails to make necessary adjustments when needed. (Way we've always done it" syndrome!)

The Hailey mayor has stated, "that the change of government would be extremely disruptive, creating a lame duck government..." There is no reason for any disruption if the council wants to be re-elected. If the current council members are doing a good job, they should continue and therefore be re-elected. If they decide to not do the job they were elected to do, because of the change in government, then they should not be re-elected.


Vote no

The real issue is about Leadership

Mayor of Hailey

Do you feel that you clearly understand the pros and cons of the change to a manager form of government? No, of course not -- you couldn't because media coverage has only focused on cities who have that form of government. There has been no in-depth reporting of cities like Pocatello or Spokane, Wash., whose experiment with the manager form of government was an utter failure, causing them to return to the strong Mayor format.

Do you feel as if you understand the difference in the competency between a city administrator and a city manager? No, of course not -- you couldn't because there is no difference. In fact, many city administrators have worked as city managers, and vice versa. The jobs require the exact same skills.

The real issue before Hailey residents on May 23 isn't whether city hall will be run by an administrator or by a manager -- the real issue is about Leadership.

It's about retaining the office of Mayor as the elected Leader whose voice and vision guide the affairs and direction of Hailey; or to completely eliminate that Leadership in favor of a government that vests no single individual with that statutory authority.

It is about your absolute right to vote for the Leadership that most closely represents your values; or whether to abandon that core right and only be allowed to vote for the council, who have no individual leadership authority.

Hailey residents should question why they would change their form of government, when it is arguably the most polished and accomplished jurisdiction in the county. And they should question why they would give away their democratic right to vote for the person they choose to lead their government.

This issue isn't about office management -- it's about Leadership.

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