The question of whether we should have a strong mayoral form of government versus our current system has long been debated, but never put to public vote. Just last April, several public information sessions were held to educate voters about the pros and cons of both forms of city government and implications of making any changes.
I have previously advocated for Columbia to adopt a strong mayor system, and so does our current Mayor Steve Benjamin. Our system as it exists today, with seven council members, a city manager who answers only to them, and a powerless mayor makes for cumbersome decision-making and very little accountability. A strong mayor system mandates a full time mayor, like a chief operating officer, who oversees the operations, personnel and budgetary functions of the city.
To enact any of these changes, City council must first pass an ordinance putting a referendum for change on the November ballot, and that ordinance would have to pass by August in order to make it on the ballot. A very complex set of legal matters would then need to be unraveled for any change in government to go into effect, and state law would prohibit it being implemented until July 2016. I still believe this change has great merit for our city and I'm glad to see the renewed interest at City Council. Let's get it in front of the voters this fall and see what they think.