How Would Decatur Go About Popularly Electing Its Mayor?

At this year’s State of the City Address, you may recall Mayor Bill Floyd suggested that Decatur should alter its charter so that the mayor was elected by the city’s populace instead of being appointed by the City Commission.  But, how would the city commission go about making this change if they wanted to?

City Manager Peggy Merriss fills us in…

The City’s Charter would have to be amended by a local act of the General Assembly. Generally, the City Commission would forward a request (often through a resolution) to the DeKalb delegation who would have to introduce the legislation. Also, legislation changing the terms of office would not be effective until the next election after adoption of the amendment.

48 thoughts on “How Would Decatur Go About Popularly Electing Its Mayor?”

  1. 1. each candidate prepares a written and/or multi-media proposal for the city covering a defined range of issues and initiatives.
    2. proposals are posted on-line for a 30-day period of review by citizens during which time questions are publicly submitted to and answered by candidates.
    3. preliminary, on-line certified/secure voting to cut down to 3 final candidates
    4. 1 public, live/on-line streamed debate between final candidates
    5. final, on-line certified/secure vote to determine Mayor.

    1. So, you are comfortable disenfranchising those voters who lack online access and/or are not comfortable and fluent using that medium?

      1. good point–there would be “meatspace” equivalents to all digital channels:

        you can vote online OR go to a polling place
        you can watch the debate on-line OR show up at the debate location
        review proposals online OR read them at the library

      2. My 87 yr old grandmother is fluent and comfortable on the internet, so, in 2012, I am okay disenfranchising those voters. They may be a little behind the times. 🙂

              1. Best to be straight up clear : No one’s thinking there’s a chance in hell of this ever happening, but if it ever did come up, you can be sure that Dawg and I would be in there fighting it tooth and nail, and if we were unsuccessful, we’d (pretty sure it’d be we) pitch in to make sure everyone who needed assistance had it.

                1. I don’t think it’s likely, either. BUT the fact that anybody even put it out as something to think about suggests there are people for whom certain segments of the population are out of sight/out of mind, which in turn plays out in other ways. It’s the bubble thing, and it just irks me.

                  1. smalltowngal, you’re 100% right. Sorry for letting you down. After the cussing, I definitely shoulda commenced to scolding. (Gosh knows where this soft spot for DawgFan came from…)

                    (Just for the record, keeping my senior neighbors updated on neighborhood stuff is my very favorite part of being actively involved in my neighborhood. Great stories, kind words, and warm smiles– what more could a person want? :0)

                    1. In all fairness, dawg isn’t the one who floated the notion to start with, and apparently isn’t the only one who’s OK with it. BTW, it’s not just age that creates barriers to online participation, economics is a big factor. Either way, when it seems like people are blind to that kind of issue, it gets my dander up.

                    2. Yeah, I’m a fan of yours, too, D, even if you are heavy-handed when dishing out the benefit of the doubt!

                      Must say, still, I’m a bit disappointed that others aren’t weighing in on this, which IMNSHO, is a crag protruding from one of the major bergs we need to navigate as a community. (It’s basically down to you, me and nellie.) Guess everybody’s out scouring the countryside for acceptable BBQ.

        1. I glad she can afford the internet connection and a computer. Also glad she has no hearing or vision problems, too.

  2. I still think the kids should vote. Anyone who rides the mini-fire truck, reads at the schools, performs in school events, shows up at every community event, and walks around town saying hi to all, etc. will get the kid vote and deserves to win.

    1. Only if voting eligibility is restricted to those kids that demonstrate they can behave appropriately in restaurants.

      1. Yes! And do not skateboard on city or private property outside of McCoy Skate Park! And are polite to their mothers. It’s the equivalent of a poll tax or literacy test at the voting booth.

  3. We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. But all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting, by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, and by a two-thirds majority in the case of more…

    1. I feel a T-shirt coming on: Decatur: We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune. Wonder if Cleese et al. are litigious?

    2. Just remember that strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no system for a basis of government. Supreme executive power comes from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!

    1. Thunderdome on the Square! All proceeds from ticket sales and concessions go to charity of course.

  4. Why do we need to change how the mayor is selected?

    I think a person that proves her abilities day in and day out to the folks she works with is a far more valuable leader than one that can best hog the credit and over promise during a brief campaign cycle.

    The current system is working great, let’s not “fix” it.

    1. Here’s my explanation of this from a while back…

      The mayor and I spoke at some length regarding this. Basically Decatur is the only municipality in all of the metro area who still has the commission elect the mayor. The concern is that once Mayor Floyd decides to step down – if AHID will let him! – the other larger DeKalb municipalities might be able to use the “not popularly elected” argument against Decatur when it comes to the DeKalb County spots on these commissions. Their sheer populations are already in their favor, but Decatur continues to be put on these boards purely because of its stellar reputation.

      Thus far, I’ve not heard any hard and fast reasons not to do this. No doubt it’s easy to see how It could cause potential political issues for some of the other current commissioners, but I haven’t heard of any other ways it would impact our government. Not saying there aren’t any, just haven’t heard them yet.

      1. So a clear claim on proportional representation (for the mayor) may be required to participate in forums that don’t have proportional representation (like “regional” commissions).

        That’s rich.

    2. I feel the same way and have wondered what the benefits of a change are. A different thread seemed to suggest that an elected mayor would have more credibility somehow.

      If we do change, why not a conventional vote like for Commissioner or School Board member?

      1. It would have to be a “conventional vote”. State law would not allow otherwise. The whole City would elect a Mayor via regular ballot. I’m not sure how some of the previous posts in this thread got off on a tangent unless they were being facetious.

        1. I wonder how they would set it up? Would they add a Commissioner (making 6 of them)? Would they keep it at 5 and eliminate the at-large position? Or would the Mayor not be a voting member of the Commission at all?

  5. I imagine the Commission would stay a 5 as presently constituted. The Mayor would be elected at -large and would preside at Commission meetings, but likely would only have a tie-breaking vote. Those kind of details would be worked out before passing a resolution to give to the county legislative delegation.

  6. Having the public vote is the way to go unless it’d upset our current form of government. The “picked by your peers” way makes for a very sticky situation for switching leadership. Some commissioners could want a change, but wouldn’t want to stir the pot– really, it’d be like staging an overthrow, and since everyone and everything gets judged so harshly around here, why risk it? (And of course they’d all still have to work together afterward.) There’s also probably a “next in line” expectation, and that method doesn’t necessarily lead to the best mayor.

    In an ideal world, we’d choose from “interested in being mayor” seated commissioners who’ve served at least one term so that we’ve seen them in action– at City Meetings and within their district. The public stage isn’t the only place of action, and having citizens vote would spur commissioners to take an interest and engage at the neighborhoods level. (Not all do– or at least not with all neighborhoods within their elected responsibility.)

    1. The whole point that Mayor Floyd is trying to make is that it would be a public vote by the whole city. And, anyone who was interested and pays the qualifying fee would be free to run.

      1. I get that it’d be a citywide vote. I just like the idea of choosing from candidates who’ve invested their time and energy and have a track record– like I said, ideal. Kinda scary to contemplate the possibility of an inexperienced person riding a controversial issue to office, thanks to a successful Twitter/FB campaign.

        1. Democracy is about free choice. Vote for who you wish, but vote. Turnout at city elections is generally about 20%.

          1. Maybe this would increase turnout? Somehow a mayoral vote is more exciting than a vote for some obscure county office that no one understands. Kind of like the presidential election pulls out voters even though their lives are just as affected by the less prominent elections.

            1. I would argue that those less prominent elections affect our lives more (much more, in fact) than national elections.

              I have never fully understood the logic about wanting increased voter turnout just for the sake of increased voter turnout. If 80% of the population doesn’t educate themselves on local candidates, issues, etc. and/or don’t think it is important enough to vote, do we really want them voting? For all you know, some misguided voter could end up voting for a republican. 🙂

              1. “I would argue that those less prominent elections affect our lives more (much more, in fact) than national elections.”
                I totally agree, which is why the low turnout for local elections always has mystified me.

  7. Given our split, odd year system of elections, I would hope that any sitting Commissioner would be required to give up their seat if running for Mayor. Otherwise, it would create an unfair situation where the Commissioners who represent districts whose election year is not the same year as the Mayor’s election, could run for Mayor and keep their seat if they lose, whereas a Commissioner running for re-election in the same year would obviously have to give up their seat – they could not run for both simultaneously.

    If so, this could really shake things up on the Commission. If an elected Mayor’s position is created, I would expect probably 3 of the 5 current commissioners to run for the position (assuming Floyd retires), and thus creating open seats in at least 2 districts. If you follow Decatur politics, open seats do not occur very often! And I don’t think it would necessarily be a bad thing either.

    1. I would imagine (again, could change), that the mayorial election would take place at the same time as City Commissioners are elected. I think Georgia law presently requires that if someone intends to qualify for a different office, they must resign their current post.

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