Sunday, March 18, 2007

City manager form of government and a little history

I liked Bob Pauls take on power issues, though I don't agree with his conclusions on Brad's power grid take over. I found his writings on the form of Carbondale City government to ignore history and be far off base. I thought I might comment a little.

A little history on forms of government. For centuries, there were few forms of governments that survived. The ones that worked, generally having to do with superstitions, swords and/or gold. With the creation of the printing press, it became possible to invent new forms of organizations and publicize them. Things like religious offshoots (Lutherans for example) sprang up and became popular. Around the time of the American Civil War, there was a rush of new forms of government invented, in a golden age of government invention, that continued into the 20th century and then died down.

The modern elementary school was one form of government, as was the strong city manager form. Others of note, included communism, socialism, world government, the UN and the League of Nations. Don't forget the public university and normal universities, they were invented then too. Oh wait, the League of Nations is a superhero thing right? I always get confused. :)

Each of the forms of government was invented to solve a perceived or real problem and what we know now is that each of them has failed in one way or another. Now we are going to have to reinvent them or change them into a different form. You can see this happening right before our eyes in all of these new types of governments, as we get more wealth and/or more or less time, the world changes.

Let's do a truth table and see what that takes us -

First question, do you think that Carbondale has done as well has it should have done over the last 20 or 30 years? Or since 1946? Please separate the success of SIU from Carbondale if you can.

Second question, do you think that the city manager form of government works?

Third question, if you think the city manager form of government works, aren't you obligated to fire the current city manger for incompetence?

I think that Carbondale hasn't done nearly as well as it should have over the last 20 or 30 years, until 4 years ago, when we had our lucky Vista Volunteer work as Mayor full time and then things magically got better.

I don't think the city manager form of government works for Carbondale, but if you do, that means you think our current city manager sucks and needs to be fired. I think the form of government is broken (at least for us, it is OK if other people want to have ineffective city government) and we need to switch.

Anyone want to argue that Carbondale has been doing well over the last 30 years? Anyone want to fire the city manger for incompetence and get a new one? Maybe Carol Fry can come back and stink the place up again?

I wrote Bob a great comment about his ridiculous complaint that Brad is working too hard for the city. I asked him what level of work should we limit our mayor and city council? Is the right number 10 hours a week or 15 or 20 or 40 or 60? I asked him if there was a law limiting the amount of work an elected official could do? Brad's real power is working harder then everyone else. It isn't direct power, it is figuring things out though hard work and driving the agenda. He did it before he was mayor too. By the end of the Neil Dillard era, Brad already had control of the important parts city council agenda. That is the advantage of work.

There are lots of examples in modern society of beliefs that are supposed to solve one problem, but don't work. Heart stints, Untracked Classrooms, and Communism are good examples. In Carbondale, the city manager form of government has not been working. It may or may not solve some corruption problems, but Carbondale has lots of good old boy favors happening anyway. It would be better to enforce the current anti-corruption laws and have a form of government that works for the citizens of the city, then have the city fail because of its form of government.

It is time to examine this 100 year old experiment of government and decide if it works for this city. If it hasn't worked for this city and we should start a new experiment, with a better form of government.

Your comments are welcome.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Now you are an expert on the history of political development the world over.

Maybe you could explain how Bob Paul is incorrect about the political history of Carbondale, and why a mayoral system would be better, rather than giving a historical review of political systems and their function that would make the people at Wikipedia laugh out loud.

Peter in Carbondale said...

It is the results that speak for themselves. There is almost no way for Carbondale to have done worse. We know this answer don't we? Anything is better then what we had.

Sam W. Clyde said...

Just some thoughts, I may answer each question later if I have the time.
City Managers like anyone who works for a City Council or Board of Directors are subject to the political agendas and wims of each member. Sort of like people who work for Peter are subject to his preferences and motives. In Carbondale you cannot blame the City Manager without blaming the City Council.
Yes, Carbondale has tons of rules because the legal system and the public have in one way or another asked for or demanded them. Those who are building want special treatment from the Planning office at the same time others in the community want a swat team to go in and make slum lords repair their rental property of close.
the slum lords know the legal game and play it well.
I think you are being to hard on the City Manager. The position requires listening and reacting to more than just the business community. Any decision that is made is going to make someone mad.
I think that our business problems are regional and just Carbondale. Marion success is due to the interstate. Bob Butler protrays himself as good for Marion, I think it is the interstate. I

Peter in Carbondale said...

I agree with Sam on most of this. I'm purposely being hard on the city manager and I know it is the city council too. If we had a mayor who was accountable instead, I think we would be better off. The City Manger is far removed from being fired or taking much heat from anyone who isn't on the city council. The real power of being on the council is being able to put items on the agenda to make the city manger do work.

Almost every business in Marion now, showed up in Carbondale's city hall and gave Carbondale a shot too. We have systematically chosen not to pursue these opportunities. There are many places where business locate 15 miles from an interstate, it isn't very far. Give Marion their due, they have out performed Carbondale by a wide margin in business development. It isn't just the luck or the interstate, they have made a city where businesses are wanted and treated possitivly.

Most companies would love to be in Carbondale and hopefully harvest the graduating college students. Almost every other college town in the country has companies moving there to get the graduates. Why hasn't that happened here? Why is Carbondale the worst performing college town in the whole country?

My feeling is we are facing a referendum on Carbondale's future in this election and this form of government is part of it. Do we want a 24000 person Town and Gown or do we want to have the city grow? Maybe get a second employer to bring money into our service industry?

We know the answer the business community wants to hear, but they all live outside of the city limits. It could be the university people like being lost in Carbondale?

Thanks for the thoughts.

Anonymous said...

What businesses has Marion cultivated that Carbondale had a shot at first, and how do you know this? What business growth does Marion have that Carbondale lacks? And I thought you said that because of Cole the business climate and growth of business are related directly to his leadership. So, now you're saying that Cole has failed at competing with Marion?

Peter in Carbondale said...

Every business that comes into Southern Illinois looks at Carbondale and Marion. Some will not come here because of distance from 57, others might.

Unfortunately, small manufacturing is being wiped out in the USA by China right now. There aren't many wins there today.

Carbondale is doing great against Marion in retail, no one has gotten anything else around here for the last several years.