If Ray Shannon had his druthers, city commissioners would simply drop their plans for an upcoming advisory election to help them determine the size of Iola’s next governing body. That’s because state law already has a mechanism in place to implement an eight-member city council — which Shannon contends best fits the city’s needs — in April 2011, as a result of last year’s vote to disband the current form of government.
The default form could be rejected, though, if the current three-man commission uses home rule powers to adopt another form of city government before that automatic change takes place.
Cities claim home rule through a constitutional amendment that provides the right to issue charter ordinances spelling out how a city will be governed, including the number of commissioners or council members, how they are elected and what powers they will have.
With that in mind, city commissioners last fall appointed a 14-member citizens advisory committee to examine Iola’s options for its next governing body. Shannon was on that committee.
The group met over several weeks before voting in January to recommend a seven-member city council — six councilmen and a mayor.
But after learning there were different opinions among committee members, commissioners instead called for the advisory vote.
SHANNON SPOKE about the appeal of an eight-member council.
“What you have now is a three-member city commission, and all it takes is two people to agree to make a decision — any decision,” Shannon said. That’s not enough, he said.
Nor is a five-member body much better. “Then, it would only take three people to agree.”
Having an eight-member council would force greater discussion on a number of topics before they are approved or rejected, he said.
Such a council also would feature two councilmen from each of Iola’s four voting wards, plus a mayor elected at large, and would give all Iolans better representation in city affairs, Shannon said.
“And if you get two representatives from each ward, it’s guaranteed to get more people interested in what’s happening,” he continued.
Previously anonymous Iolans would need only to campaign in their respective wards, a much easier route to getting elected, Shannon said.
“The system we have right now is stacked against the plain working guy,” because candidates are voted on by the entire city.
“I can list at best maybe a dozen people who have name recognition across the city,” Shannon said.
THE COUNCIL v. commission issue may be moot, however, Shannon said, because of the way ballots for the advisory election are worded.
Iolans will be asked whether the next governing body should feature four, six or eight commissioners and a mayor.
“Not only did the commissioners disregard what the citizens committee recommended, they replaced the word ‘council’ with ‘commission,’” Shannon said.
A primary distinction between a council and commission is the mayor’s role in city affairs.
A mayor is considered a voting member of a city commission; his role is substantially less in a council.
In a city council, the role is primarily that of a community spokesman. A mayor votes only to break a tie, or if his vote is necessary for a charter ordinance to be enacted.
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