Current form of government
Madison has a Mayor-Council form of government. There is a city council with seven members who represent seven districts of the city. Voters elect a council member for their district. Because the city is not very big, the council members’ jobs are part-time. Every voter gets to elect the mayor, who works full-time.
Balance of power
The mayor is an “executive,” like the U.S. president. The executive “executes,” or enforces, the law. The council is the “legislative” branch, like the U.S. congress. It makes the laws. Having these branches separate is supposed to balance out the power. It is human nature for people with power to try to accumulate more power. To prevent this, authority is spread out between the executive and legislative branches of the government. This is a genius system, because it makes it harder to change things. New ideas aren’t always good, so making it a bit harder to change things works really well to protect us from a lot of bad ideas.
Mayor is also an administrator
The mayor also functions as a business administrator. The mayor has the help of a city administrator who reports to the mayor and assists in managing the various departments. These are each managed by their own department head. When departments have ideas for programs or regulations or expenses, they must get approval through a vote of the city council.
The change some people want
Some people want this arrangement to change. They propose a Council-Manager government. The mayor would no longer be the executive and administrator. Instead, the mayor would become part of the city council. To keep an odd number on the city council, districts would be redrawn, and there would be one less district and one less representative.
What voters lose
There would be fewer representatives. But we lose more than that. The new person executing the laws and managing the city departments will be the unelected City Manager. This person is selected by the city council. The voters would have no vote on who executes the laws and runs the city departments.
Won’t the city run better?
The city manager wouldn’t have to worry about what voters think. This person would never have to run for re-election. So the city manager can focus on work. Advocates say the city could be run more like a business and be more efficient. Here’s the problem: the city is not a business. Business is about choices. Customers choose whether or not to shop at a business, and which products to buy. But with government, you have to pay everything they want! You do not get to pick which taxes to pay or what city to pay to. The government has “the power of the sword” to force you to pay all your taxes. Losing the right to vote for the executive means the government becomes even more powerful. And that makes citizens less powerful.
We lose our voice
Giving the government more power makes citizens less powerful. The council-manager form of government takes power away from the voters because they can’t vote for the person running the city. This gives more power and control to the city government. Do not lose your right to choose the city executive! If you lose your choice, you lose your voice. Vote NO on the council-manager form of government.