Change to elected mayor is an unwarranted proposal
Here in Cleveland Heights there is a political scrum shaping up over the city’s type of government. “Citizens for an elected mayor” want to replace the city’s council-manager form of government with an elected full-time mayor to administer the city.
The council-manager plan of city government arose during the progressive era in American history, at a time when municipal corruption was rampant. Lincoln Steffens documented the nation’s civic sins in “The Shame of the Cities,” which appeared as a series of articles in McClure’s Magazine in 1904.
Reformers sought a way to clean up the corruption that was led by big city mayors. They decided to replace the corrupt mayor-council governments with council-managers.
In a council-manager form of government, city council makes laws and broad policy decisions for the city manager and staff to carry out. This form of government combines the strong political leadership of elected officials with the strong managerial experience of an appointed manager. The manager is a non-partisan appointee with very broad authority to administer the city.
Most small cities use the council-manager form of government. Cleveland Heights has been a council-manager city since 1921. Tanisha R. Briley, a Cleveland native, became the ninth city manager for Cleveland Heights in 2013. She oversees the city’s $79 million budget and more than 565 employees.
Briley functions as the chief executive of the city as well as the chief advisor to council members. City managers operate under a professional Code of Ethics and do not engage in election activity.
From what I see and hear, folks wanting the change may be confused by the fact that the head of the city council is called the “mayor.” But this “mayor” is merely the part-time head of the council; this “mayor” is not in the city’s executive branch of government. The executive branch is headed by the full-time city manager, who council can hire and fire.
Louis Duchez is a retired public school teacher and a Cleveland Heights resident.