Let system play out in Brainard case, consider electing a bona fide mayor
Let’s throttle back that liberal filter to the Miami Herald. I’d like the Orange County Register, but that’s probably pushing my luck.
When I say local politics, I’m sure most of you think as I do – a classy operation. Now that we have the sarcasm aside, it can probably be safely said that expectations of local politicians are often disappointingly low. That’s why it’s worth commenting when even those expectations are underwhelmed.
I don’t have to tell the readers of this newspaper that a Grand Junction city councilman-elect, Rick Brainard, was recently arrested in connection with a domestic violence allegation. That’s bad enough, and the information we’ve seen so far makes the situation appear particularly damning.
While it is important to let the system play itself out and we do well to remember that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the incident has caught the attention of area groups that have decided to exercise their lawful right to protest Brainard serving on the council.
What was unfortunate was that two current council members decided to take the opportunity to attend the protest and speak out against Brainard’s council service. Public officials speaking out on a criminal justice matter prior to its resolution is troubling, but doing so if one is attempting to make political hay out of the situation is especially unappealing.
It’s no secret a four-person bloc of voting members on council had been instrumental in leading the city down the path of fiscal jeopardy. It’s also not classified information that these folks suffered shock, if not awe, at the result of the recent election, which could be seen as more a massive repudiation of their policies than a desire to elevate another candidate.
Nevertheless, these two elected officials decided to show up as part of a citizens’ protest, which seems at best a bit self-serving. The biggest problem seems to me to be when officeholders, sworn to uphold the Constitution, decide to weigh in on a process involving the resolution of several constitutional rights, prior to that system resolving those rights.
Citizens are free to have feelings about such matters, and public officials are citizens; however, they have taken an oath to preserve and protect certain rights. Letting the wheels of justice turn, albeit slowly, is one of those rights.
I decided not to name individuals here, because I suspect after 2014 we will not remember them. Nevertheless, someone commented that one of them had been the mayor at some point, which reminded me that I don’t think the city of Grand Junction has a mayor.
I base this supposition on Article V of the city charter that creates a president of the council who shall be elected from the council and serve for a one-year term and remain a member of the council with the same right to speak and vote as any other member.
According to the charter, he (sexist founders) “shall be recognized as the official head of the city for all ceremonial purposes, by the courts for the purpose of serving civil process and by the governor for military purposes.”
I don’t see anywhere in the charter that it creates a mayor, and, if at some point at some meeting there was some resolution to refer to the council president as a “mayor,” I don’t think that counts.
Neither do I think it would count to have some motion to refer to the council head as the Sultan of Swat, the Splendid Splinter (my personal favorite) or Lord Popinjay.
To put it simply, we have a city manager system. This involves executive power being invested in an appointed position, not an elected one, which the term “mayor” would imply.
But maybe they are onto something. We could, as city residents, amend the city charter at the next election and replace the duties of an appointed city manager with those of an elected and publicly accountable mayor.
Actually, as I look at the document, I don’t think it’s even that difficult to make the necessary changes.
I also anticipate that by offering the position at the present city manager salary level of around $120,000 to $150,000, we could get pretty qualified people to run for the position and it would engender a great deal of competition and scrutiny.
That might solve a lot of these problems – not all, mind you, but maybe an important few.
Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.