Our 14-member advisory committee that was asked to consider the best form of government for Iola separated into three groups. Six of us decided to recommend a four-member commission and a voting mayor, all elected at-large.
This essay will support that decision. Perhaps other committee members will write in favor of their conclusions.
Iola has been operating under its current governing charter since 1968 and had a three-commissioner form of government prior to that.
When the advisory committee was formed, a survey was made of the forms of government used by cities of the second class, the population group to which Iola belongs. The survey was then narrowed to cities ranging from 2,500 to about 10,000. It was discovered that the majority of Kansas cities of the second class that used the commission form of government, as Iola does, had four commissioners and a mayor.
Many of those also had city managers and the rest had administrators. All but a handful had professionals in the managerial post.
A starting point for the discussion was that Iola had had good government throughout its modern history. It has been particularly well served by owning its own utilities and being able to finance them from sinking funds wisely established by past commissions that were drawn from the ranks of the community’s successful business and professional leaders.
Part of the reason for Iola’s successes as a community over the years has been its efficient city government. So perhaps the best argument for going to four commissioners and a mayor is that it is closest of the three alternatives to the present system, which has worked very well for generations.
In recent decades Iola has been successful in attracting star-class in-dustries such as Gates Rubber, Haldex Brake, Russell Stover Candies, Herff-Jones, Tramec Corp., Kneisley Manufacturing, Sonic Equipment and Cameron Drilling and Production Systems. In almost every case, the ability of the Iola city government to react quickly and positively to requests from those industries prior to their decision to locate here was a significant factor in that decision.
It should not be necessary to point out that five people can make decisions quicker than can seven or nine or that it is easier to gather a quorum of a smaller body than of a larger one when time is of the essence in responding to a request or dealing with an unexpected development.
FOR AS LONG as any Iolans now alive can remember, its commissioners and its mayor have been elected at-large, with every voter weighing in on every position.
The strength of at-large elections is that the field of candidates is citywide rather than being limited to a ward. In a city like ours, which is physically small, and is not divided into sections determined by race, income, or other divisive factors, there is no need to have sections of the city represented separately on the commission.
Iola is a single community, not a collection of separate, competing, communities. At-large elections emphasize and strengthen community, the feeling of common purpose. One must fear that losing that in favor of electing commissioners by wards would create unproductive competition and make it more difficult for Iolans to act together to achieve their common good.
These were the considerations which led to our recommendation for a four-person commission and a voting mayor, all elected at-large.
THE REGISTER in-vites the other members of the advisory committee and everyone else to write in support of this or alternate configurations for Iola’s city government.
Submissions should be no longer than 750 words. Statements contrary to fact will be omitted. For example, no statement that Iolans voted for an eight-member council and a non-voting mayor will be published be-cause they did not. The question on the ballot was published in Thursday’s editorial. It was that question, and that question only, on which Iolans voted.
No letter to the Forum on the subject will be published after April 3.
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