In an almost out-of-the-blue moment, Warner Robins City Councilman Mike Brashear, presented a plan last week that would have changed the city’s form of government. No longer would the mayor be the full-time, chief executive officer of the city -- rather the position would become part-time, relegated to kissing babies and cutting ribbons at shopping center openings. Brashear was able to sway colleagues Carolyn Robbins and Mike Daley to help roll out the plan, but Councilmen Mike Davis and Daron Lee weren’t buying it. A town hall meeting was held and a straw poll taken on the subject and 60 percent were not in favor of the change. Thus, Brashear decided to drop the idea.
Stop right there.
One straw poll among 20 citizens where 12 oppose does not make a consensus for a city that 66,588 call home. What killed this idea was timing. There is a mayoral election this year and such a switch has to be thought out and implemented carefully. It’s also something city council cannot do without the approval of the General Assembly. That would be hard, if not impossible, to accomplish this session.
We cast no judgment about the veracity of moving to a city manager-council form of government. Brashear and the others should be complimented on their out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to deciding the best form of government for the city long term. Some could think that such a move would give council members too much power, but according to surveys by the International City/County Management Association, 55 percent of the cities surveyed in 2006 used the council-manager form of government, including Phoenix, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Rockville, Md.
If we take the power grab scenario off the table, having a city manager could prove to be a more efficient form of government and could also prevent a disaster if, for some reason down the road, the electorate decides to vote into office a fool. That day hasn’t appeared yet.
While former Mayor Donald Walker had his issues, the rate of growth under his leadership is undeniable. Mayor Chuck Shaheen has continued in that vein and the city, under his leadership, has largely escaped the impact of the Great Recession.
An old, familiar saying, is appropriate here: If it ain’t broke, why fix it?