City manager worth study

It’s important for people to have a form of government that serves them best. It’s part of the American tradition to consider making changes to how a government works, in order to make sure it responds to the will of the people.

With that in mind, we are fine with Gloversville officials exploring the possibility of changing the city’s form of government from a mayor and council to a city manager and council.

However, the city council would need to study the pros and cons carefully.

The idea of having a city manager and council in Gloversville has been informally talked about for years. Across the nation, it’s a common form of government.

Recently, though, 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth submitted a letter to the Common Council and Mayor Dayton King that said now is a good time to talk about the idea formally.

Essentially, under the council-manager system, the mayor would be a member of the council. The council would appoint a professionally trained city manager, who would be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the city, proposing the city budget, setting the council agenda, appointing department heads and supervising employees.

There are a few advantages and disadvantages that seem readily apparent.

On the potentially positive side, the city manager could cost less than the current personnel structure. Wentworth and Councilwoman Ellen Anadio said a reduction in the mayor’s pay and elimination of the commissioner of finance would make up for the cost of paying a new city manager.

In addition, Jason Molino, the city manager of Batavia, Genesee County, noted most city managers bring a master’s degree in business and public administration with a significant amount of managerial experience. It seems reasonable a professional with business experience could do a better job of running the city than someone who was elected mayor.

On the potentially negative side, the city manager may not be a local person and would not be elected by voters. There also is no guarantee the manager would save the city money. Would a city manager be tough in negotiating labor contracts?

The city manager would not be immune to pressure from council members. Wentworth noted the manager would serve the council and could be removed at any time by a majority vote. Realistically, no matter how wise a city manager’s decisions are, city residents could pressure the council into firing the person.

It’s possible the idea to change Gloversville’s form of government is being discussed, in part, because the mayor and some of the council members have had disagreements. Notably, there was a dispute for months regarding possible appointments – and non-appointments – to some city boards.

It will be easier to take the proposal more seriously if strong arguments are presented for or against the idea.