How active a voice should Soldotna’s mayor have? That was a question for debate at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.
Council member Linda Murphy sponsored a measure that would ask voters this fall to approve changing the mayor’s job description, giving that office a vote on the council while removing the veto powers currently in place. Though they have been issued in the past, Mayor Nels Anderson says his veto authority isn’t particularly strong.
“I don’t have any really strong feelings one way or another on this, to be honest with you. The veto power is basically, almost meaningless because to override the veto, it takes four votes. Well, it takes four votes to pass anything that’s going to go through anyway. So it really doesn’t change very much and I think either system would work.”
Both Kenai and Seward have active mayors who cast a vote on all the issues. But council member Tim Cashman has concerns about adding that extra voice to city decisions.
“One thing I’ve always thought about the mayor’s position in Soldotna is it is very special in that they’re the one that makes the decision on every single tie (vote). Everything that we have that is a big consequence to a lot of people, typically is about a fifty-fifty split and the mayor is the that decides that and the mayor also has the ability, if they see something that is completely wrong or they don’t believe in it, to veto and bring it back around. It’s always worked great. This is something I don’t think is worth changing.”
Having served as city clerk in Seward, Murphy is well accustomed to a strong mayor form of local governance. She takes issue with how the city’s charter lays out different roles. Not just that of the mayor, but also city staff.
“To give one example of what I think is totally ludicrous, our charter says that the city manager is appointed by and works at the pleasure of the council. That means that the city manager does not report in any way to the mayor. I see the mayor as our chief legislative officer. I find it totally ridiculous that we’re in a system as a home rule community where the mayor has so little say in what happens. Yes, the mayor has veto power, but actually, the mayor just runs the meetings and signs ordinances and resolutions.”
The council, and only the council, will vote on whether to put the whole question on the fall ballot when it meets next on July 25th.