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
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.
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!!!!!!!