By Susan Motander
The Monrovia City Council opted not to act on the issue of rotating the position of mayor as opposed to the current system.
The council received brief reports from City Manager Oliver Chi and two members of the committee studying the issue. Chi outlined the process through which the committee went to reach its conclusions. These included three community outreach meetings and meetings with all the city commissions. In addition, city staff provided the committee with the findings of research they had done on governance in comparable local cities.
Chi also outlined the basic structure of Monrovia’s government being a city council/city manager system. He also reviewed the history of the city’s system that moved from a system of rotating the position of mayor to a directly elected position in 1976. Chi said the committee, while suggesting a change back to the rotation system, had also suggested that this was not the time to make that change.
Baker, who said he was both honored and challenged by serving on the advisory committee, echoed this recommendation saying that the matter should be placed on the ballot, but not at this time. Hopper, who also served on the committee, said that he felt that this issue needed to be explained more thoroughly to the general public.
Hopper likened out current system to a corporation with the city manager acting as the CEO and the council as the board of directors. In his scenario, the public took the role of the stockholders. He further explained that few in the community understood this relationship. He also said that the perception of many in the community was that the mayor held more power than the other members of the council. He pointed out that the inverse was true. Of this limited power, Hopper said “The mayor is your spokesperson and conducts meetings.”
It was Hopper’s suggestion that the council continue to discuss this issue for the next two years and continue to educate the public. He pointed out that in switching back to a rotating system, many people felt they were relinquishing some power. He also said he felt returning to a rotation system would restore what he called “that Monrovia Culture,” i.e. a sense of collegiality.
Council Member Alex Blackburn questioned whether or not the rotation system might result in constant “politicking” among the various council members. He also asked if the committee had looked at the question of whether or not contested elections for mayor had resulted in higher voter involvement and therefore a greater turnout rate for the elections. Blackburn also said that he felt conflict was not necessarily to be avoided.
In response, Hopper said that he felt that there was no way to avoid conflict. “We are looking at reducing mean spiritedness,” he said.
Ultimately Mayor Tom Adams suggested that the issue be tabled until Council Member Larry Spicer who was not present for the discussion, could take part.