Opinion: LONG BEACH NEEDS A MAYOR!

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of writing a piece on how we can bring back mayoral elections to Long Beach. On the Facebook group Long Beach Current there is a link to an article written by Dan Lamparter which tackles that very same topic. Dan did such a great job, so I contacted him and got permission to repost it here.

Dan, a Long Beach Resident, just started a blog about Nassau County in general. Every once in a while he will have a Long Beach story, so I’m looking forward to another future collaboration. Check out his blog @ poliblue.blogspot.com

LONG BEACH NEEDS A MAYOR!

Written by Daniel Lamparter (website)

This is an issue that really strikes me why the citizens of Long Beach do not want a mayor. The current style of city government is a Council-Manger system.

There are four different ways a city, as defined by the New York State Constitution, can be organized.

A Council-Manager system consists of a City Manager, who serves at will of the City Council, and a City Council that serves as the legislature. The City Manager, in Long Beach’s circumstance, acts as the executive branch of our government without veto power.

A weak Mayor-Council system is when the elected Mayor has ceremonial duties and no real authority. The authority is vested in the City Council. The City Council acts as the legislature and the executive branch of city government. Sometimes, in a weak Mayor-Council system, there might also be a city administrator or manager as well.

A strong Mayor-Council form of city government grants full executive powers, including veto, to a Mayor, meanwhile, the City Council acts as the legislature. A Mayor is elected by the citizens of the city.

A Commission style city government is when the electorate votes for the department heads who, therefore, form the legislative body that governs the city.

http://www.dos.state.ny.us/lg/publications/Local_Government_Handbook.pdf#page=65

There are 35,000 people that live in the city of Long Beach. That makes us the 15th largest city by population out of the 62 fully incorporated cities in the state of New York. We are only 1 of 2 cities that do not have a mayor of some sort. The most commonly utilized form of City Government is a strong Mayor-Council system. 46 cities in New York, excluding the City of New York due to its own extenuating circumstances, use this system. The question now becomes, why?

Why is it absolutely necessary to revert to a strong Mayor-Council form of government in the city of Long Beach, New York?

Before I explain the current need for a strong Mayor, it is necessary to explain the reason as to why we have a City Manager.

Long Beach had a strong Mayor before 1939. During that year, Mayor Louis Edwards was murdered by a Long Beach Police Officer who was part of his own security detail. Shortly thereafter, the citizens of Long Beach amended the city charter and changed the strong -Mayor system to the current City Manager-Council we have today.

Now, here are the reasons why it is IMPERATIVE that the people of Long Beach SPEAK OUT and demand a strong Mayor-Council system.

1) The City Council holds too much authority without any serious checks placed on it. With the strong Mayor-Council system, the elected Mayor has the authority to veto. Thus, a Mayor places some sort of check on the City Council in order to maintain a BALANCE in government.

2) The Mayor is held accountable directly by THE ELECTORATE. As it stands now, the current City Manager serves at leisure of the City Council. What ever party holds the majority on the 5 member, at-large, council selects who will be the City Manager. There is no direct accountability in that the citizens do not have a say in who holds the job that acts as our executive branch of government.

3) The fail-safe measure in the City Charter that permits that if the City Council cannot agree on a budget, the  “budget as submitted by the city manager shall be considered to have been adopted on the above-mentioned last day of May.” Long Beach City Charter, Article 6, section 101-a (b).

Now, if the City Manger’s budget includes increases in fees and tax hikes, and if the city council cannot agree on a budget, what happens? THAT’S RIGHT. A CITY OFFICIAL WHO WAS NOT ELECTED by the people of Long Beach just raised your taxes. This happened in 2006. So this is nothing new.

For the greater good of city, to restore accountability to city government, and to prevent an illegal tax hike from happening again, I URGE YOU TO TELL YOUR CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT REVERTING TO THE STRONG MAYOR-COUNCIL FORM OF GOVERNMENT!!!!!!!

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comments

21 thoughts on “Opinion: LONG BEACH NEEDS A MAYOR!

  1. Very good points.

    The whole goal of a City Manager is well-intentioned. The idea is to de-politicize the executive position byhaving him serve as a sort of “prime minister” who answers to the party in charge, not the electorate. But there in lies the problem. By trying to de-politicize the position, the exact opposite happened. Now the City Manger has become (and has been for dozens of years) totally beholden to doing whatever the City Council majority wants. Instead of being accountable to 35k people, he (or she) is accountable to 3 people.

  2. The only way for this to change to the elected mayor system is for the council to do it, right?

    If the new council really wants to show us they’re going to change the city and not going to appoint their friends/family, this would be a great way of showing it!

  3. “The only way for this to change to the elected mayor system is for the council to do it, right?”

    Not sure, but that’s kinda scary if true. Why would the council want to rid a position that they control?

  4. Just to be clear, as recently as 2007, this has was put up for a vote in Long Beach and defeated.
    http://www.newsday.com/long-beach-proposal-position-of-mayor-would-be-created-1.618731

    I’m still looking to find the actual results and see how close it was, but I’ve heard it was a big defeat.

    To make the change, the City Council would not vote on it, but would vote on approving a referendum be added to the next election (without calling a special election, held in 2013). The voters would have a yes/no to cast while they make their picks for City Council.

  5. Shaun, you are right that it was on the ballot a few years ago. However, there were several problems with the measure. Two problems I saw was that it was on there for political gains and also it was never explained nor publicized widely.

    The Democrats had just raised property taxes by 25% in the previous year’ budget. This was really meant to distract people from that. Also, the publicity campaign was not big at all. There was one news12 story about it and that was really it and because of that many organizations came out against it.

    It would be a different situation if we chose a city manager who was a professional but we do not and he does not even live here.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/11/nyregion/l-favoring-a-mayor-for-long-beach-925020.html

    Even a former city manager said that we should have a strong mayor.

  6. could not agree more – as i recall, part of the reason why it failed a few years ago was that the mayor would not have much more power than the current City Manager – there needs to be some type of a checks and balances system here

  7. First of all, the Mayor referendum was not going to diminish power in the least. It was simply to replace City Manager with Mayor everywhere in the Charter (which was easy because it was originally drafted for a Mayor form of government.

    This was 100% proposed by Rob Tepper. He was vilified by his democratic cohorts because they didn’t want to relinquish the power and the republicans had to blast anything a democrat stood for (even though all of hennessy’s campaign literature discussed how he wanted a mayor in lb)… repubs changed their tune when they took power and realized they’d only have a republican cm and never a repub mayor

    Tepper was prob the best councilman lb ever had & this is coming from a republican

  8. This is all the more need for the residents of Long Beach to demand a Strong-Mayor. We do not need a nayor to act as a titular figurehead, rather, a Mayor who can lead Long Beach into the future and strike balance in city government that is direly needed. Furthermore, a Strong-Mayor is directly held accountable by the people.

  9. Just because a person is elected as mayor which in my opinion is nothing more than a popularity contest what makes you think that he or she will have the skills necessary to run the City of Long Beach. What will we get a sucsessful lawyer or businessman? What do they know about unions, contracts, infrastructure,law and budgeting. This operation is a far cry from running a law office or local business. We would end up hiring a City Manager or a cadre of assistants. We can’t afford to have a novice mayor learning the job after they get elected. We need someone to “hit the ground running”. What we will get is another lay person put up by the Republican or Democratic party. If you think that a Mayor is the solution to our problem you are mistaken, what we need is a professional that can work with our elected representatives. If the council lets the City Manager do what he has to do to run this city without regard to politics we will be fine. Don’t let the last few CMs turn you off to this form of governing.

  10. You speak as if the city managers in the past have been effective. If they were, if at all, it was very minimal. Clearly, the current system we have right now does not work.

    Your point about the mayor being a pawn of the political party wins the election is flawed because, under the current circumstances, the city manager answers to whoever holds the 3 person majority on the city council.

    We already hired a “cadre” of assistants to run our city government. At one point over the past year, we had a city manager, 2 deputy city managers, a position created for labor relations and that doesn’t count the patronage jobs throughout the city. I used to work for a department in the city where my manager used to get lists of employees to hire even if the schedules were finished. If this is not waste and patronage under a city manager system, I do not know what is.

    Also, whoever is going to replace the city manager is going to be a novice as well. So why not amend the city charter and make this person who is supposed to be the executive branch of our cit government accountable to the people?

    Also, having a Strong-Mayor balances city government. The City Council cannot just go rampant do whatever it feels necessary. Since City Council elections are every 2 years, it would give the party in control 2 years to be effective. If the voters decide not to reelect them, then there will be different political parties on the city council than the Mayor’s office.

    This is where balance comes in. The Mayor would have the power to veto. Therefore, the city council would not be the be all and end all of the affairs in the city. It also brings more accountability to city government because a mayor answers to the electorate directly.

  11. Two years ago there was a referendum to change to a mayor in LB. It went down big time. People outrightly rejected the idea. the last thing we need in Long beach is yet another political official in this city. A mayor would mean, more politics, more patronage, more, nepotism, and more scandal. LB used to have a mayor, it was completely corrupt and they changed to a City Manager because it was so incredibly bad Denis Kelly is a great guy, but he is wrong on this. The last thing we need is another political figure in this town! What we need is a professional city manager and a city council who knows how to find one!

  12. We do NOT need any more politicians in this town! We don’t need more politics, we need less! If you want to really change LB, then how about eliminating political party names from the ballot. let people run on their own name not on the Democrat or Republican ticket! That is the kind of change LB needs! A mayor would only make matters worse!

  13. You forgot to mention in your “history” that the LB voters had a referendum on the Mayor form of government just 3 years ago. It went down really hard-big time!. It failed by over 500 votes! The people have spoken already on this issue. The problem is the people who run, the parties they represent. The political parties finance the campaigns. The Republicans pay for the Republicans campaign and the Democrats pay for the Democrats campaign. So the power is in the political bosses hands. GET RID OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN LB! There is no difference between any political party at the local level. Party matters at the state and federal level, not on the city, grassroots, organic level!

  14. First off, it is 3 man rule as we have now. It only takes a 3 man majority on the City Council to pass ordinances and legislation. A mayor would prevent that from being the be all and end all. Plus, a mayor is held accountable to the people that elected him along with the City Council.

    It would create the balance in government that we desperately need because as of right now, we have none.

    Having a mayor would actually make the executive branch of our city government less political because , at least us, the voters of this city, have a greater say and the mayor is not hand picked by the commitee people of each party.

  15. Party does matter on the local level. There cannot be primaries without political parties. Also, it makes it a lot hard to get on the ballot without them. However, there are certain amendments to the City Charter that can be made to curb the power of the political parties of this town and one of them is to a mayor. I would propose a Strong-Mayor, with veto power, who would have a 4 year term. City Council elections are every 2 years during off year elections. This means that whoever is in control has 2 years to set things right. If they don’t, they are not reelected usually. Now, a mayor can veto. This is important. It balances out city government.

    Plus, the city manager, as it stands now, can raise your taxes because if the city council cannot agree on a budget, the city manager’s budget takes effect at the end of May.

    Would you rather your taxes be raised by an elected official or an appointed official who you had no say in choosing?

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