Charter Commission Special Election May 5 by Woodrow Stanley
On May 5th the residents of Flint will vote in a special election to choose nine members to a Charter Commission. This election, only a few days away, is still not on the public's radar. Keep in mind that special elections are notorious for low voter turnout. The citizens elected to the Charter Commission will be charged with the awesome responsibility of reviewing the complete city charter and making whatever changes they deem appropriate. Flint last adopted a new charter in 1974. Obviously the results of this process will shape the city's political landscape for many years into the future. In the 1974 Charter Commission election candidates ran from the city's nine wards. This year's Charter Commission election candidates will run city wide. This important change was orchestrated by the former emergency manager. Keep in mind that he could have permitted candidates to run by wards as occurred in 1974. A city wide election has the ominous potential of tilting the election to sections of town that historically have higher voter turnout. This observation is even more relevant given that ten(10) of the thirteen(13) Charter Commission candidates live in wards 5 and 7.
The Charter Commission members will debate a full menu of critical issues such as;
– should the City Council be reduced from nine(9) to seven(7) members
-should City Council terms be reduced from four(4) to two(2) years
– should the city have a funded and functional Ombudsman Office and Civil Service Commission
-should two(2) members of the City Council be elected at large
-should the city be required to hire a professionally trained city administrator.
Perhaps the question that has garnered the most interest is whether the city should change from a strong mayor to a city manager/ city council form of government. A small but powerful group of local leaders are working frantically behind the scene to support Charter Commission candidates that they view as friendly to their special interest. The proponents of the city manager/city council option suggest this will solve Flint's perennial financial and economic woes. If there is any validity to this argument then there would be a considerable number of financially crippled cities that have switched from strong mayor to city manager/ city council form of government. There would be a national trend. Our nation's top universities would have volumes of books and reports chronicling this ground breaking achievement. Well the following is a sampling of cities that have had severe financial issues in the last thirty(30) to forty(40) years; New York, Cleveland, Washington DC, Stockton, Cal, Birmingham, Al, Detroit, Pontiac, Highland Park, Allen Park, and Benton Harbor. None of these cities have altered their form of government. None. Zero. The leaders of the effort to change Flint's form of government are either some of the area's most brilliant minds or they have ulterior motives. I'll put my money on the latter. These are the same people who time after time try and fool the public in believing that there are simple solutions to complex issues. Flint's economic issues are tied to a huge loss of good paying jobs and the lost of residents. This is called tax base. Changing Flint's form of government with the expectation of a miraculous economic recovery is like putting your tooth under the pillow in hopes that the tooth fairy will deliver you a shiny new Cadillac. Absurd? Yeah, about as absurd as expecting a change in the form of government will result in a miraculous economic turn around. Don't fall for this shell game. Remember to vote May 5th in the Charter Commission election. The stakes have never been higher.