NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Alderman Keene Winters favors a City Manager for Wausau. He now favors an interim city manager - to be appointed as soon as one can be found - because he believes the dysfunction at City Hall is spiraling out of control.
The cure for the city's problems isn't a city manager. It's a better mayor.
And I largely agree with Winter's assessment of what's happening in city government. Taxpayers paid twice for a legal opinion on the Thomas Street widening project; one that city staffers didn't like, and a more expensive one that they did. There are ethics questions about Jim Tipple's vacation that have yet to be fully explored, and the sudden resignation of the city's Human Resources director which makes the investigation more difficult. There's a pending harassment complaint that has yet to be resolved. And the debacle over losing federal block-grant money because the city didnt deal properly with eminent domain property cases.
So how should these messes be untangled? The voters should weigh these issues on Election Day. If they decide the Jim Tipple is corrupt or incompetent or is no longer the right leader for the city, they should vote for someone else. Part of Councilman Winter's frustration is surely that some of these scandals were brewing before the last election, and Jim Tipple won anyway.
I've laid out the pros and cons of a city manager before. The position takes power away from the mayor and gives sweeping authority to an unelected bureaucrat. Further, the mayors powers and responsibilities are outlined in the city charter. That means the charter must be changed first. And that should be a long, deliberative process.
Some have suggested a city-wide referendum on the City Administrator proposal. Thats fair enough, but it misses the point. If Keene Winters objects to the way Jim Tipple is running the city, he should run for mayor, put his ideas before the voters, and accept their verdict.
Image: An American voting booth on the University at Buffalo's north campus via WikiCommons.com