Motivations for a Popularly/Directly Elected Mayor
There are multiple distinct motivations for this, and each of these
may have alternatives that could address the problem (but since they
haven't already been instituted, ...).
Regional boards: Palo Alto participates in a range of regional boards
that have substantial impact on us. However, our representatives tend
to have less clout on these boards than similar cities.
Longevity and institutional knowledge:
Our representatives have a higher turn-over rate
(the reason that the next point is important).
A representative who has the title of "mayor" is
regarded as more accomplished and more able to achieve results
than a mere Council member. Also the presence of a mayor indicates
stronger interest in the topic by his/her city. Many of our
representatives to these boards are "merely" Council members.
Follow-through on initiatives: The 1-year term for Palo Alto's mayor
means that shortly after they get up to speed, they become a lame
duck. Too often, the initiatives they take are not followed through
on by their successor. Counter-example: Bern Beecham was pushing for
improving the environment for retail in Palo Alto when he was Vice Mayor,
established a Committee when he was Mayor and is now leading a follow-on
Committee under his successor (Jim Burch).
Palo Alto has a "Strong City Manager" for of government (as opposed to
the "Strong Mayor" that San Francisco and many other big cities have).
This proposal would *not* change that. Rather, a directly elected mayor
serving a two-year term could somewhat reduces the power imbalance.
Selection criteria: Currently, mayors are selected largely based upon
it being their turn. Selecting mayors based upon their skill sets could
improve effectiveness of Council.
The advocates of a directly elected mayor are seeking to make only minor
changes to the current situation. The debate whether these changes produce
enough advantages to both warrant the risks (unintended/unforseen
consequences) and justify the cost and aggravation of making the change.
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