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City Charter Update III

Mayoral Voting

City of Clarksville

Clarksville, TN – In the two previous and current charter update efforts, one of the attempts to change interaction and separate the influence of the mayoral (executive) position over the council (legislative) was made through the voting process.

It has been a complaint of both citizens and council members that have observed and served with previous administrations that the mayoral position could and had exerted undue influence through manipulation of the council votes. Similar complaints surfaced at the last council meeting. However, the two previous efforts to change anything with voting could not gain enough support for change.

The current charter states the mayor may vote on any matter. It does not say when the mayor will vote during the voting process. It does not say that the mayor can or cannot look at the voting results before they are published, and then decide to vote. It does not say the mayor should vote at the same time as council members and in the blind (not seeing how others are voting during the vote process).

In all three attempts to update the charter, several ideas surfaced on changing the voting process. One was if a mayor was allowed to vote, then that vote should be at the same time as the council members, not after the council results are tallied.  This is related to events where a mayor could see council results before they are flashed to the public and, even after they presented, vote and change the outcome. Related to this, the mayor would vote in the blind as council members do.

Another approach, which has support among those that want more separation of the executive level of government from the legislative level, is the mayor will not vote at all. This would clearly separate the mayor (executive) who runs the day-to-day operations of the city from the city council (legislative) that approves the procedures and ordinances on behalf of the citizens. However, all tie votes would result in a failed passage of an ordinance or resolution.

An approach that gained traction and was approved by unanimous vote in this third try was that the mayor would not vote on issues before the council, unless it was to break a tie. I, and others, pressed with this approach in all three charter update attempts. This method lessens the influence of the executive over the legislative, but allows for a clear decision, if the mayor chose to use the tie-breaking ability. The tiebreaker vote would not be mandatory as a mayor might have personal or business interests in an ordinance or resolution that would require the mayor to abstain.

I know former Mayor Piper was not in favor of limiting the executive voting privilege. Mayor McMillan had not stated any preference or concern to the committee. If the executive believed that a council decision was wrong, then a veto could be used to counter that decision, versus trying to alter the vote. Thus, the veto was strengthened, when compared to the current charter, but was adjusted, when compared to the past two update charter attempts.

I’ll cover the committee veto change recommendations in a follow-up report.

Editor’s Note: This article contains the view points of Councilman Bill Summers and may not represent the views of the rest of the City Council, the City of Clarksville or ClarksvilleOnline.

Bill Summers
Bill Summershttp://www.cityofclarksville.com/
Bill Summers is the City Councilman for Ward 10 in Clarksville, TN. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the City of Clarksville or Clarksville Online.

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