Part 1:  Why Mayor instead of Town Council?

The short answer:  humility.

Why am I running for Mayor? 

  • Part 1:  Why Mayor instead of Town Council?
  • Part 2:  What would you do as Mayor, then, if Jamestown's Mayor has so little power?

The long answer:

  • According to our Town Charter (Section 2.2), "The Mayor shall be the official head of the Town government, shall preside at all meetings of the Town Council, and shall have the powers and duties of Mayor as prescribed by this Charter and the General Statues. The Mayor shall have the right to vote on matters before the Council only where there are equal number votes in the affirmative and in the negative."
  • The Charter (Section 4.1) then says, "The Town shall operate under the Council-Manager form of government, in accordance with Part 2 of Article 7 of Chapter 160A of the General Statues.
  • Part 2 of Article 7 of Chapter 160A of the General Statues states
    "(a) In cities whose charters provide for the council-manager form of government, the council shall appoint a city manager to serve at its pleasure." And then, in 160A-148. Powers and duties of manager, "The manager shall be the chief administrator of the city. He shall be responsible to the council for administering all municipal affairs placed in his charge by them...."
  • And the general provisions (Article 5 of Chapter 160A) regarding forms of government in North Carolina make it clear that (160A-67) "Except as otherwise provided by law, the government and general management of the city shall be vested in the council. The powers and duties of the mayor shall be such as are conferred upon him by law, together with such other powers and duties as may be conferred upon him by the council pursuant to law. The mayor shall be recognized as the official head of the city for the purpose of service of civil process, and for all ceremonial purposes."  
  • So the Town Council is in legally in charge of Jamestown, not the mayor, and so the mayor's role is limited only to (i) presiding over the meeting and (ii) voting when there is a tie on the council.  That takes humility. 

Part 2: What would you do as Mayor, then, if Jamestown's Mayor has so little power?

Presiding over the meetings means setting agendas that still move legislation forward, but I believe can be done better to encourage public participation. In particular, as mayor I would schedule public hearings so Council does not vote directly after hearing from the public.  

Indeed, there are at least 30 different reasons why towns are legally required to hold public hearings, which give the public the opportunity to address Council on important matters.  Certainly, according to statue 160A-81, "The council may adopt reasonable rules governing the conduct of public hearings," including time limits and the number of speakers -- at least when a number of speakers all hold the same position, or when the number of attendees exceeds the capacity of the room.

But when a Council will then vote on the matter immediately after a public hearing -- i.e., during the same meeting -- that encourages the Council to come to the public hearing prepared to vote, not to listen.  In that case, the public hearing then places a burden on the citizen not just to provide information or perspective, but also to argue either "for" or "against" a measure. That can keep the public from sharing alternative options because they can feel locked in to arguing for or against that measure.  The timing also prevents the public from hearing from one another before making up their own minds, reading subsequent reports and editorials, and discussing the matter with one another and with elected officials prior to Council's vote. 

So that's the way it's been done here in Jamestown for over a decade -- with Council voting right after public hearings -- and I've spoken at Town Council meetings about this because, overall, I think that method discourages the kind of public participation that is so crucial to our democracy.

More? See this Facebook post.