In the latest round about the city charter, the leaders in Nashville deemed it necessary that the people of Clarksville should have a say in its adoption, which in my opinion is only correct since it is the constitution of the city. However, the points that were brought out about the flaws in the revised charter are indeed important; they did not address the major issue of what the charter is lacking in the governance of the city: a lack of separation of powers within the frame work of checks and balances.
The separation of powers is that in which the different branches of government are separate within a system that each branch checks the other so that no one branch can do as it pleases. Clarksville is setup with an Executive (Mayor) and Legislative branch (City Council), but there is not a separation due to the fact that the Mayor is a voting member of both branches.
In the revised charter it states that the City Council is the legislative body of the city:
The legislative and other powers….are hereby delegated to and vested in the City Council (Art. II, sec. 19)
However, the charter also states the Mayor is a voting member of the council:
The governing body of the City shall be known as the “City Council” and shall be composed of a Mayor and as many Councilmen (Art II, sec. 3)
He may vote upon any matter presented to the Council. (Art II, sec. 10)
The Mayor shall preside at all meetings of the City Council…and the right to vote. (Art III, sec. (b))
So, we see that the Mayor is a member of the legislative branch of the government with the right to vote as such. However, isn’t the Mayor also a member of the executive branch? According to the charter, the answer is yes:
The Mayor shall be the executive head of the City government (Art. III (a))
He, as the executive, even has power over the different legislative committees:
The Mayor shall have power to appoint all standing committees as he may deem necessary. He shall have the right to change the committee members as he may deem advisable. (Art. III (g))
Given the witness of the charter itself, and even though there are listed two separate branches of city government, the two branches of government are joined in one person. The separation of powers between the branches is missing. This is the major flaw that needs to be addressed first and foremost before any true revision can completed.
Editor’s Note: While the city has elected to request that the Charter be removed from the State Legislature’s agenda, they have made clear they intend to resubmit it when they feel the Legislature would be more accommodating towards rubber stamping the city’s desired changes.