Archive for Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Galena government may change again

December 16, 2003


— This small city in far southeast Kansas has tried all but one of the forms of government allowed by state law.

Residents might soon decide to try that one, too.

City Commissioner Scott Donaldson said he would ask his fellow commissioners next month to place on the August ballot a proposal to switch Galena to a modified mayor-city council government. A change-of-government committee that has been at work since the summer has voted unanimously to recommend the referendum, he said.

Galena changed from a 10-member city council-mayor government to a three-member city commission-city manager government in 1997. The commission was expanded to five members in 1999.

The consensus among members of the change-of-government committee is that city managers Galena has hired have not earned their salaries. They hope new City Manager Jamie Bell, hired in September, can be the exception.

"They've got nothing out of them (city managers)," said committee member Nancy Cure. "They have accomplished nothing by having a city manager."

The proposed new form of government would not include a city manager.

Donaldson, the committee chairman, said the city manager's salary should not be the only reason to change. There also is the idea that the modified mayor-council government will be more accountable to residents, he said.

Committee member Walter Bradshaw proposed the idea of the modified mayor-council government at a City Commission meeting in July.

The modified mayor-council government is comprised of a powerful mayor, four council members elected by ward or district, and three council members elected at large.

The mayor would be the top administrator and have the power to veto ordinances and resolutions approved by the council. Five members of the council could override the mayor's veto. There would be time limits for both the mayor's veto and the override vote.

The mayor also would appoint department heads annually, with the consent of the council. The mayor could decline to reappoint any department head he or she thinks is not performing as expected.

Bradshaw called the current arrangement "a government of the few, by the few and for the few."

If voters approve the new government in August, residents would vote for the members of the new government in April 2005. Redistricting of the town's wards also would be required.

Donaldson said recently the committee's decision was not meant to reflect negatively on Bell or his performance so far.

"With regard to Jamie, he's done fine," Donaldson said. "If he proves himself, if he completely turns the city around, all they (residents) have to do is vote 'no.' It would almost be a rousing vote of confidence."

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