Just because others are doing it?

Published 5:48 am Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Albert Lea Tribune and Anthony Trow favor a four-year mayoral term, and I do not doubt their sincere desire to find ways to make Albert Lea better. It’s just that giving the mayor a four-year term isn’t one of them.

Some surrounding cities have indeed gone to a four-year term. As a father of five formerly teenaged sons, it reminds me of the phrase, “Come on, Dad, everybody else is doing it.” I suggest, as I did to my sons, that this is not a very good argument. I recall saying something about following friends off cliffs.

Will more people run if they expect a four-year term? City councilmen have had four-year terms for years and seldom have opposition. This year, for example, all but one is running unopposed. Other than when they run for election, how often do you hear from your councilman? Where is the magical community dialogue that springs from a four-year term?

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How would a four-year term make the mayor’s office more stable when only one sitting mayor in 30 years failed to get re-elected under our current system?

It is true that a new mayor’s first budget is largely set by the previous council. In fact, it is largely set through input from the department heads and the city administrator, whose hands are tied to a considerable extent by costs of city functions that the council is required by law to provide. Most newly elected officials are surprised by how little discretion they have. This won’t change by giving the mayor a four-year term.

Most people would accept the power that goes with holding office but they would rather not run for office and meet the public. Does the two-year mayoral term lead to laziness on the part of the public? My question in return is, do we want mayors who are too lazy to run for office every two years?

Finally, changing to a four-year term will create an imbalance of power. Currently three councilpersons run every other year. If the charter is amended, three councilpersons and the mayor will run in a four year cycle and the other three councilpersons will run in the next cycle. This means that three of the councilpersons could run for mayor without relinquishing their council seats. The other three incumbent councilpersons would have to choose to either run again for council or run for mayor. Why would a councilperson with a safe seat risk giving it up to run for mayor?

Vote no to the charter amendment.


Mark A. Anderson

Albert Lea